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Are beauty pageants really regressive?

In an interview with Lounge, Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu talks about the debate over the relevance of beauty contests and what real beauty really means

Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu.
Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu. (REUTERS)

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Just when India's Harnaaz Sandhu was announced the 70th Miss Universe, a social media debate started: many were thrilled that the crown was returning to the country after a gap of 21 years ago, some pointed out that beauty contests in today's day and age are regressive and push forward the stereotypical ideas of beauty. 

Lounge asked Sandhu, who's now in New York to begin her reign as Miss Universe 2021, about her thoughts on the social media debate and her idea of beauty. Edited excerpts:

Also read: India's Harnaaz Sandhu crowned Miss Universe 2021

What's your idea of beauty?

Everyone is beautiful. Everybody has their own personality and makes them different. There's no two ways about it. I think beauty for me has always been about a great personality—a person who thinks beautifully, it shows not their face, their skin, the way they carry themselves, the way they interact with others. 

There's was a lot of debate after the Miss Universe contest regarding how regressive such competitions can be.

Well, I'm a person who never gets distracted about the hot takes, or what people perceive when it comes to competition. I have always competed with myself, not with anyone else, because you need to realise that everyone has their share of struggles. If you will start thinking about others, you will not be able to focus. Winning has more to do with building yourself. 

Through beauty pageants, we get to embrace and empower women all around the world, who then go on to make some difference in society.

How do you maintain such focus in today's social media-lead world?

Social media is one of the technology that we use in 21st century and we are totally in the black hole of it. Through it, we have the power to uplift or suppress each other. It goes without saying that your one single post can people's mindset, even the way we live our life.

And isn't this the purpose of our lives, to inspire each other? So we need to use it wisely rather than wasting time, and know what is real, behind the reel life.

Also read: Body positivity starts from home, says Indian-origin Miss World America

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