Indian model Harnaaz Sandhu was on Monday named the 70th Miss Universe at a pageant held at Eilat, a resort city in Israel.

The 21-year-old was crowned by Andrea Meza from Mexico, the previous Miss Universe title holder. Before Sandhu only two Indians have won the title – actors Lara Dutta in 2000 and Sushmita Sen in 1994.

Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira finished second in 2021 Miss Universe pageant, while South Africa’s Lalela Mswane was third.

Contestants were judged by traditional displays of national costumes, swimwear and a series of interview questions to assess their public speaking skills.

On being asked what advice she would give to young women on how to deal with the pressures they face, Sandhu said they must believe in themselves. “To know that you are unique makes you beautiful,” she added. “Stop comparing yourselves with others and let’s talk about more important things that are happening worldwide.”

Sandhu continued, “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.”

Sandhu, who belongs to Chandigarh, has won several beauty titles before her Miss Universe win, including the Miss Diva 2021. She was among the top 12 contestants in the Femina Miss India pageant in 2019. She has also starred in Punjabi movies.

Sunday’s contest was hosted by United States television personality Steve Harvey. An estimated 600 million viewers in 172 countries were expected to watch the ceremony via the FOX network, organisers said.