Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu will be the first to tell you that you are a passionate young woman. The 22-year-old actress started competing in pageants as a teenager and, last December, struck gold when she became the third contestant ever to bring home the Miss Universe crown to India; It has been 20 years since the country won the tournament. She said: “I have always dreamed of being a Miss Universe because you have a platform to talk about something you really care about. In her case, Sandhu has used her government to promote menstruation, and last spring she launched a coalition back home with the goal of reducing stigma around periods and promoting widespread access to sanitary products. As the headliner, Sandhu travels around the world to promote women’s empowerment. He tells us about the only book he carries, the challenges of living in public, and why he believes that art and entertainment have the power to break down stereotypes. Sandhu lives in New York City. Here, how to do it.
On your morning routine:
Sometimes I wake up around 4 am to get on the couch for makeup; Sometimes I have early call times to catch my flights or meetings. On a normal day, I try to wake up around 6:30 or 7 in the morning. Every time I wake up, I pray for two seconds and just thank myself, my body, the people who have always believed in me, and the Almighty for giving me this opportunity to break barriers for many women there. I drink cold water with lemon and honey. After that, I worked out whenever possible, in hotel gyms or wherever I went. I have some equipment that I carry. It starts with some cardio and abs. When I’m very tired or I’m on my period, I try to do yoga. I have been doing yoga for the past five years, and it really helps to relax mentally and physically.
On what your days are like:
It keeps changing! It is such a beautiful feeling to work in and travel to different countries and learn from them. Instead, I have to catch an early morning flight, and I learn about my activities and schedule in those two hours. After arriving at my destination, I have meetings, media conversations, and branding happening. That’s something I personally enjoy a lot: being in front of the camera. Sometimes, I don’t get enough sleep, but that’s okay because I know this time will never come again.
Standing on the ground:
I love reading, so I always carry a book with me. He called The Power of Your Broken Heart, by Joseph Murphy. I may have read that book, I don’t know, more than four or five times now. I open any page at random, read one of the quotes written in it, and that’s something I try to use on a particular day. It calms my mind. I also started reading a new book – it’s perfect Healing At New Heights: A Guide to Overcoming Emotional Disorder and Finding Freedom – by Vex King. It’s really good to read more about life and the things that excite us mentally. Food also makes me happy as does spending some time with my group and talking with my mom.
On unwinding after a long day:
Apart from reading, I also want to write something that I wrote down that day. Then I wash and take care of my skin. My mom always taught me to take care of my skin naturally and to love myself the way I am. A few years ago, I started learning about my skin and realized that my skin was sensitive and dry and that the more products I used, the more difficult it was for me. to take care of him. So I try to stay natural, use a solution, a face cream, a moisturiser, and just let it breathe. Sometimes I even make some icing which really helps my skin. I drink some water and watch a Bollywood or Hollywood movie.
On making the most of your title:
I’ve always looked up to being Miss Universe because it gives you a platform to talk about something you’re really passionate about. You meet amazing people, and you have a chance to talk. People are important to listen to you, and you have to change a lot of stigmas around society. One that I am really concerned about is menstrual cycle because my mother, who is a gynecologist, always made me understand the importance of women’s health.
Highlights from your travels:
I had this opportunity to work in and travel to the Philippines, and it was amazing to be there, to meet the fans and meet the former Miss Universes all together. In Indonesia, I got to try some amazing foods, and I found my new favorite: It’s gado-gado salad, made with some lettuce, kale, fried fruits, and some vegetables mixed with fresh peanut sauce . It’s very good – trust me. I came back from Vietnam last night, and I really enjoyed the way they represent their culture and the spirit of the people they have. But my homecoming is the most precious moment for me. It was a beautiful feeling for me to meet my family after four or five months.
On the challenges most Miss Universe title holders face:
People forget the fact that you are still human if you are Miss Universe. Sometimes people don’t give you enough space. There are some fans who try to make you feel bad about something—how you look or something you do. You are always strong with their comments. I think we need to respect that, at the end of the day, we are all different. We all have different bodies. We all have different designs. And that’s what beauty is. Miss Universe doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. All former Miss Universes that I have spoken to also say that it is difficult to take care of your physical health because you do not have enough time to work out or eat right.
On what you still want to do:
I believe life is too short to plan, but there are some things I hope to do eventually. I am a passionate young woman! One is to be a global citizen and global player. In today’s world, it’s easy to get into people’s minds through entertainment; you can break a lot of stigmas about the things you see every single day around you, whether it’s about domestic violence, women’s empowerment – anything. Like, there is a movie from Bollywood called The Human Pad. It’s about menstrual health and menopause, and it changed my mind and that of many people who have watched it.
On the advice you want us to give you:
When I started my journey, I was all raw energy, someone with raw talent and no idea what was actually going on. I started learning from scratch. The only advice I want to give to everyone is to be open to learning, not learning, and learning.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.