The whole country felt like a proud parent when Harnaaz Sandhu, a 21-year old woman from Punjab, brought home the title of Miss Universe 2021 earlier this month (13th December) at the pageant held in Eilat, Israel. Her win in the competition proved to be extra special not only for her but India as well because the crown came home after 21 years. Harnaaz became the 3rd woman to win Miss Universe after Sushmita Sen (1994) and Lara Dutta (2000).

While this extraordinary feat is a reason for celebration, so is the story of this ordinary girl who made her way to success by believing in herself and her values.

Harnaaz Sandhu was born in Gurdaspur, Punjab. Inspired by her mother, who broke generations of patriarchy and became a gynaecologist, she decided to carve her own career path. On the academic front, she has completed her Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and is now pursuing MA in Public Administration. She started participating in pageants from her teenage years. From winning Femina Miss India Punjab 2019 to being crowned Miss Diva 2021, she had made her mark in the world of pageants even before entering Miss Universe 2021. But her journey wasn’t that of just roses but thorns too. Harnaaz has revealed in interviews that she was body shamed in school for being skinny. But the obstacles couldn’t overpower her belief in herself and her dreams.

Her clarity of thought and vision was clearly demonstrated by the way she answered questions on a world stage. When asked about climate change, she was quick to say, “Prevent and protect is better than repent and repair.” What resonated the most with the youth of the whole world was her message to the young girls on dealing with pressures that they face today. The most important thing is to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Her vibrant personality and confidence not only helped her get the message across but also made the audience connect with her and feel what she’s feeling- a sense of pride in herself.

She is a strong advocate of women empowerment and women’s right to education, career and freedom of choice.

Harnaaz Sandhu is an example of what women can achieve if they put their heart and mind into it. You’re brave. You’re confident. You’re capable. You’re talented. You’re you. And that’s the best thing.

You might not want to become Miss Universe, but you deserve to celebrate whatever you decide to do, no matter how big or small. And you can do it if, as Harnaaz Sandhu said, you believe in yourself and if you have people in your life who believe in you.