ISRAEL (Fwrd Axis) — Harnaaz Sandhu of India was crowned the winner of the 2021 Miss Universe pageant on Sunday, putting an end to a controversial pageant amid political conflicts in the host country of Israel.
Sandhu beat out 80 other women from around the world to take home the crown. Nadia Ferreira of Paraguay and Lalela Mswane of South Africa were the first and second runners-up, respectively.
Following her win, Sandhu told host Steve Harvey she wants others to not compare themselves to others, saying they are all beautiful just the way they are.
“I believed in myself, and that’s why I’m standing here today,” she said.
She yelled to the camera “Chak de Phatte India,” a Punjabi exclamation similar in meaning to “Let’s do this, India!”
This is the second Covid era Miss Universe pageant. With the threat of the Omicron variant, the Israeli government closed its borders to foreign travelers for two weeks. The event had drawn criticism and calls for boycotts from critics. The South African government withdrew its support for the pageant over Israeli treatment of Palestinians and called for Miss South Africa, Lelela Mswane to drop out.
Mswane did not bend to the pressure and chose to compete in Sunday’s pageant.
“If I had not come to Israel to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, I think I would have regretted it for the rest of my life,” she said. “Certain people have put me through hell and back. It has not been the easiest thing to deal with … But I choose to be optimistic.”
The Miss Universe pageant will take place in San Jose, Costa Rica.