From a small town girl to Miss Universe

Born in Kohali village, around 60 kilometers from Batala in Gurdaspur district, Harnaaz Sandhu has come a long way from being a small-town girl to becoming the reigning Miss Universe.

As she brought home the crown after a gap of 21 years, her friends, family, and teachers all joined in to celebrate the achievement. The 21-year-old had moved to the Tricity in 2008, after spending two years in England.

Her father, Pritampal Singh Sandhu, 56, a realtor, says the family has always encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

“When she participated in her first pageant, her mother and brother hid it from me. It was only after she won that they told me of this interest of hers. I immediately told my daughter that there was no need to hide her interests. Times have changed and she must do what she is good at,” he said proudly while talking to reporters at the family’s residence in Shivalik City, Kharar.

He added that as he comes from a ‘simple’ Jatt family, he wasn’t sure people from his village may approve of his daughter’s career choices. But he is overwhelmed by the congratulatory messages pouring in ever since the 21-year-old won the crown.

Her mother Dr Rabinder Kaur Sandhu, a gynecologist and senior medical officer at Sohana Hospital, Mohali, reveals how her father dotingly calls Harnaaz “Sherni”.

“I never forced her to become a doctor or an engineer. I told her to follow her heart. Nobody in our immediate family or friends’ circle has any idea about this career. In fact, we used to watch YouTube videos to learn about ramp-walk, etc.”

A devout woman, Dr Sandhu was at the Sohana gurdwara when she was informed of her daughter’s victory. “Harnaaz is also very religious. We will surely visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar to thank God for her success. After this, I will not force her to do anything but she loves working with underprivileged kids and I will encourage her to do this and speak out on women empowerment,” she said.

According to her Miss Universe delegate bio, Harnaaz, a Punjabi, draws inspiration from her mother, who “broke generations of patriarchy to become a successful gynecologist and led her family”.

Harnaaz’s brother Harnoor Sandhu, who is seven years older than her and works as a musician and video editor, said he was too excited to sleep last night. “I was watching the show live online and could barely keep watching as she entered the final 3.”

The siblings share a good rapport and Harnoor said that Harnaaz wanted to become a judge before she got interested in beauty pageants.

Harnaaz is fond of cooking and as per her family, she loves eating jalebis and her favorite meal is makki di roti sarson da saag with loads of ghee.

Sandhu, a final year student of MA Public Administration, studied in Shivalik Public School for six years and had scored a CGPA of 8 in her Class-10 boards. (Hindustan Times)

Images courtesy of (Photo: indianexpress.com) and (Photo: Instagram/Harnaaz Sandhu)

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