Chandigarh girl Harnaaz Sandhu has made the nation proud by winning the Miss Universe title. Born in Gurdaspur, Punjab, the model-actor is taking the responsibility of the crown head-on as she shared a video message on her official handle, which started with the salutation in Hindi and Punjabi for the universe as she implores, “Now, it’s time to save the universe and let’s do it together.”
Harnaaz has also shared an official statement post the big win, “I am immensely grateful to the Almighty, my parents, and the Miss India Organization for guiding and supporting me throughout. Loads of love to everyone who prayed and wished the crown for me. Bringing the glorious crown back after 21 years to India is a moment of greatest pride.”
Born in 2000, when India had last won the same title by Lara Dutta, it seems it was meant to be as 21-year-old won it in the year 2021.
Before Harnaaz headed to Israel to represent India in the Miss Universe pageant, she had a telephonic interaction with The Tribune. Calling herself a raw contestant at the time she competed for Femina Miss India back in 2019, she says, “I had won Miss India Punjab title and it was then in that competition that I got to know what it meant to be representing your country. I developed a purpose and since then working on achieving it.”
From being an outsider aspiring to win to becoming an insider who won it at the national level and now another feather to her cap with the title of Miss Universe, her perception for pageants is firm, “It’s not at all about looking glamourous. It’s so much more than that. Having a huge stage to speak your mind, it demands a lot of courage which you instill through your ideas and perception towards different issues and problems. To win one has to showcase the world what’s inside you and baring your thoughts tests your mettle in the competition.”
One thing that she counted in her strengths while preparing for the pageant was, “Holding on to the aura I was born with. And rather than compromising it with world’s view, just polished it with my own opinions, thoughts and strong personality.”
The Punjabi in her
Ask her the first Punjabi thing she would like to do post the win, and there goes a long list. “Once I land in Punjab, I would first have mithi lassi with malai. And may be order a big thali, which should have rajmah-chawal, makki di roti and sarson da saag. I know it feels rather exaggerated but I can have a bowl of ghee and jalebi too.”
When it comes to her favourite spots in City Beautiful or places in Punjab, Harnaaz vouches for Sukhna Lake and Sector 17 for they are good places to go for cycling or simply sitting with your favourite person and also because they are very close to nature. She adds, “As far as the most peaceful place in the world goes, it is definitely the Golden Temple for me. Punjab is full of places that give a peaceful vibe but Amritsar is a place which has it all, historical significance, Wagah border to celebrate our differences as well as togetherness, the Golden Temple and great food. If somebody has to come with me to see Punjab, he/she has to come down to Amritsar.”
Know Miss Universe
- She started her modelling career by winning Times Fresh Face in 2017, representing Chandigarh at the age of 17. Harnaaz also competed in Femina Miss India 2019 where she won Miss India Punjab 2019.
- A student of Post Graduate Government College of Girls, Sector 42, she is persuing masters’ degree in public administration. She is good at mimicking, dancing and singing.
- Born in a village in Batala district Gurdaspur of Punjab, she has also worked in two Punjabi movies, Yaara Diyan Poo Baran and Bai Ji Kuttange.
Sandhu’s final statement at the pageant was about the pressures that young people face across societies today. She said: “The biggest pressure the youth of today is facing is to believe in themselves, to know that you are unique and that’s what makes you beautiful. Stop comparing yourselves with others and let’s talk about more important things that’s happening worldwide. “This is what you need to understand. Come out, speak for yourselves because you are the leader of your life, you are the voice of your own. I believed in myself and that’s why I am standing here today.”
Overwhelming response from friends, family and media, Harnaaz’s brother Harnoor Singh Sandhu points out at his phone and shows the number of missed calls he has received since morning. Elder to Harnaaz, he says they enjoy a great bonding with almost no fights and more understanding. “We have always kept a positive atmosphere at home where we give each other honest feedbacks about each other’s work and at the same time respect each other’s space.”
While Harnoor couldn’t sleep the whole night before the competition which telecast early morning live according to Indian Standard Time, Harnaaz’s mother went to Gurdwara Sahib and prayed for her daughter’s win. “I was getting texts from near and dear ones as she was competing and winning each round to bring this proud moment for India, Punjab and then to us as parents.”
She always dreamt of representing her country on international platform, says her father Pritam Singh Sandhu. The first time she participated in a pageant in 2017 and told her family about it only after winning the title. He adds, “Being from a Jat Sikh family, she and her mother thought that I won’t be accepting this decision of hers but I was rather proud as I am today. With this achievement I would say that there are many girls who have the potential to become something more than what they are if only they are not restricted in any way. As far as Harnaaz goes, she always had chosen her own path and with her hard work and dedication has achieved what she sets her eyes on. She will decide for herself what awaits her now.”
Her mother, Dr Rabinder Kaur Sandhu has always been the motivation and inspiration for Harnaaz.
With thanks from The Tribune, India