Only two Indians have won the title of Miss Universe till now - actors Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000
Jerusalem: Actor-model Harnaaz Sandhu made history on Monday as she was crowned Miss Universe 2021 -- beating contestants from 80 countries -- 21 years after India last brought home the title.
Only two Indians before Sandhu have won the title of Miss Universe - actors Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000.
The 70th edition of the event was held in Eilat, Israel, where the 21-year-old bagged the coveted pageant.
The Chandigarh-based model, who is pursuing her master's degree in public administration, was crowned by her predecessor Andrea Meza of Mexico, who won the pageant in 2020.
While Paraguay's Nadia Ferreira, 22, finished second, South Africa's Lalela Mswane, 24, came third.
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," Sandhu said.
"Bringing the glorious crown back after 21 years to India is a moment of greatest pride," she said.
During the final question and answer round, Sandhu was asked what advice would she give to young women on how to deal with the pressure they face today.
"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," she said to a thundering applause.
Sandhu started her journey in pageantry when she won Times Fresh Face in 2017, representing Chandigarh at the age of 17. She later won the LIVA Miss Diva Universe 2021 title.
Sandhu has also worked in a few Punjabi films, including "Yaara Diyan Poo Baran" and "Bai Ji Kuttange".
The ceremony was hosted by Steve Harvey and saw performances from American singer JoJo.
The selection committee included actor and Miss Universe India 2015 Urvashi Rautela, Adamari López, Adriana Lima, Cheslie Kryst, Iris Mittenaere, Lori Harvey, Marian Rivera and Rena Sofer.