India’s Harnaaz Sandhu becomes Miss Universe 70th winner

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Miss Universe winner Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu reacts as the Miss Universe crown is placed on her head by Outgoing Miss Universe Andrea Meza of Mexico, at the Red Sea resort of Eilat, Israel, on December 13, 2021. (Reuters)

Harnaaz Sandhu of India was crowned the 70th Miss Universe on Sunday, topping a field of some 80 contestants in a pageant that was touched by politics and the pandemic.

The previously reigning Miss Universe, Andrea Meza of Mexico, crowned her successor, a Bollywood actress, in the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat. The pageant was held in the middle of the night, wrapping up at 5 a.m. local time (10 p.m. EST) to accommodate the primetime schedule in the US.

The pageant included traditional displays of national costumes, swimwear, and a series of interview questions to test contestants’ public speaking skills.

The top 10 showed off intricately bedazzled full-length gowns in either gold, silver or bronze. The Philippines’ Beatrice Luigi Gomez wore an asymmetrical cut dress with one sleeve, highlighting a new tattoo she said “celebrates her womanhood.”

But the contest also drew attention in recent weeks for other reasons. A grassroots Palestinian-led boycott had urged contestants to skip the event to protest Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

In the end, only Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country with close ties to the Palestinians, did not send a representative, citing the global COVID-19 situation. The South African government, which also strongly supports the Palestinian cause, withdrew support for the country’s representative over her participation.

In an interview last month, Meza urged contestants to leave politics out of the pageant, saying the gathering was meant to bring together women from different backgrounds. “When you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” she told The Associated Press at the time.

Bangladesh’s First Miss Ruposhi Greets Miss Universe 2021
Begum Shaila Simi Nur, the first Miss Ruposhi of Bangladesh greeted the 70th Miss Universe.

Marking the significance of becoming a Miss Universe, Shaila Simi Nur said “Miss Universe is not for a person who has only a beautiful face, but for a worthy soul who loves the world. She thinks of the welfare of the people, and grateful to the Creator.”

She also said that, if such a person does not promote any clothing or product or contribute to the film Industry, a Miss Universe can still be expected to work for the welfare of societies and communities around the world.

Although some say that the platform of beauty contest was not useful, it is my experience that every platform is definitely important, depending on how the winner uses it because some people look at it from a business perspective.

“Overall comfort of every living soul and happiness of life is more important than mechanical development,” said Shaila Simi Nur.