Who is Harnaaz Sandhu? What the world didn’t hear about Miss Universe 2021

On Dec. 12, Harnaaz Sandhu was crowned Miss Universe 2021. When host Steve Harvey asked the contestant to “meow,” he missed out on an opportunity to ask about her many professional accomplishments and volunteering experiences.

A new Miss Universe: The 21-year-old model and actor, who hails from Chandigarh, India, is the first winner from India in 21 years.

  • Sandhu has won several other titles in the past few years, such as Times Fresh Face Miss Chandigarh in 2017, Miss Max Emerging Star India in 2018 and Femina Miss India Punjab in 2019. 
  • She has also acted in several Punjabi-language films, including “Yaara Diyan Poo Baran” and “Bai Ji Kuttange.”
  • Sandhu names actress Priyanka Chopra as one of her main inspirations.

Humanitarian work: As a master’s student studying public administration, Sandhu has worked to raise awareness on issues such as women’s reproductive health and childhood deformities. 

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  • Sandhu’s mother is a gynecologist and women’s rights activist in India. The mother and daughter duo work together at pop-up health clinics to educate Indian women about reproductive and menstrual health issues, topics often considered taboo in rural India.
  • Sandhu and her mother also hosted a miniseries on Instagram titled “Hear It From Maa,” where the pair discussed topics such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), menstrual hygiene and breast cancer.
  • The Miss Universe winner is also an ambassador for Smile Train India, a nongovernmental organization which provides free cleft lip surgeries for impoverished children.
  • During the Miss Universe pageant, Sandhu also took the opportunity to discuss climate change. “This is the time to take action and talk less because every action of ours can either kill or save nature,” she declared. 

A proud nation: Sandhu is the first Sikh woman to win the Miss Universe pageant and  the third winner from India.

  • Before Sandhu made her historic win this year, Sushmita Sen was crowned as Miss Universe in 1994, and Lara Dutta won the same title in 2000. Both women went on to become A-list Bollywood celebrities.
  • India is tied with Mexico and South Africa for fifth place on the list of most Miss Universe wins, with each nation having three Miss Universe wins. The South Asian country shares first place with Venezuela for Miss World, with six winners including actors Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai.

Feature Image via Amir Levy/Getty

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