The joy of joining Miss Universe

Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu is heading to New Orleans, Louisiana for the 71st Miss Universe on 14 January 2023

MISS Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ©IMG Universe LLC

Miss Universe 2000 Lara Dutta sat down with Miss Universe Organization officials and looked back on her winning the title 22 years ago.

The India-born actor and entrepreneur, who was also Miss International 1997, remembered the segments, particularly the last question asked. “Nobody prepares you for that,” she admitted.

Dutta bested 78 contestants at the pageant’s 49th edition held at Eleftheria Indoor Hall in Nicosia, Cyprus while protesters gathered outside.

Conservative Cypriot church leaders opposed the staging of the beauty tilt, saying it was scandalous and promotes female nudity.

MISS Universe 2000 Lara Dutta. | Sujit Jaiswal/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

For Dutta, however, the competition fosters friendship: “I met two incredible young women, Mayu Endo (Miss Japan) and Mia de Klerk (Miss Namibia). Mia and I remain friends, our kids are friends… That’s the joy of being in a pageant.”

Dutta, 44, was over the moon when her compatriot, 21-year-old Harnaaz Sandhu, was crowned Miss Universe 2021.

“What I love about Harnaaz is, she has the exuberance of a child. She’s not trying to pretend to be a young lady who has all the answers or who is over-poised,” said Dutta.

Sandhu is heading to New Orleans, Louisiana for the 71st Miss Universe on 14 January 2023.

This will be the fourth time the pageant will be held after the calendar year’s end. MUO president Paula Shugart said moving the date was to avoid a potential conflict with the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The 71st Miss Universe Contestants will have aspirants from 69 countries and territories. It marks the debut of Bhutan, and Seychelles’ return after 27 years. Romania has withdrawn for undisclosed reasons.

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