Miss Universe is India’s Harnaaz Sandhu, 70th winner

Eilat, Israel (AFP) – India’s Harnaz Sandhu was crowned the 70th Miss Universe on Sunday, topping nearly 80 contestants in a contest affected by politics and the pandemic.

Former Miss Universe Regent, Andrea Meza of MexicoHer successor, a Bollywood actress, was crowned in the Israeli resort of Eilat overlooking the Red Sea. The competition took place at midnight, and concluded at 5 a.m. local time (10 p.m. ET) to accommodate the prime time schedule in the United States.

Sandhu said she was feeling “overwhelmed because India has been 21 years since she was crowned Miss Universe and it’s happening now.”

The competition included traditional displays of national costumes and swimwear and a series of interview questions to test the contestants’ public speaking skills. The top ten featured intricately dazzling full-length dresses in either gold, silver or bronze. Filipino national Beatriz Luigi Gomez wore an asymmetrical one-sleeve dress, highlighting a new tattoo that she said “celebrates her femininity”.

But the competition has also drawn attention in recent weeks for other reasons.

She urged a popular boycott led by rival Palestinians to skip the event in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

In the end, only Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country with close ties to the Palestinians, sent its representative, citing the global situation of COVID-19. The South African government, which strongly supports the Palestinian cause, withdrew its support for the country’s representative to share.

In an interview last month, Meza urged contestants to leave politics out of the competition, saying that the gathering was aimed at bringing together women from different backgrounds. “When you’re there you forget about politics and your religion,” she told The Associated Press at the time.

Sara Salansky, an official with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, said the country was chosen to host the competition Earlier this year due to the successful Israeli vaccination program against the Corona virus.

The competition suffered a last-minute whirlwind with the arrival of the omicron variant, forcing Israel to close its borders to foreign tourists late last month.

Most of the contestants in the Miss Universe contest were already in the country before the new regulations came into effect. But those who came next were given special permission to enter, albeit with a mandatory 72-hour quarantine period.

Throughout the run-up to Sunday’s competition, all contestants were tested for coronavirus every 48 hours and required to comply with strict mask requirements.

Amidst all the precautions, French rider, Clemence Bottineau, has tested positive for COVID-19 Shortly after his arrival in Israel. After 10 days in quarantine, she was declared virus-free last week and allowed to return to competition.

Last year’s pageant was postponed due to the pandemic ahead of Mesa’s coronation in May for a while.

Sunday’s contest was hosted by American television personality Steve Harvey. Organizers said the competition was expected to reach an estimated 600 million viewers via FOX in 172 countries.


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