Harnaaz SandhuHarnaaz SandhuCongratulations to Miss Universe 2021, Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu of India! This is the third Miss Universe crown for the country where love is the essence of life succeeding their previous wins of Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000. Harnaaz also happens to have been born in the year 2000 when her country last won! Harnaaz was born on March 3, 2000 which also makes Harnaaz the first Miss Universe to be younger than my website which was started on June 9, 1998. Harnaaz is also much younger than her fellow Miss Universe titleholders. The next youngest would be Miss Universe 2017, South Africa's Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters who was born on June 28, 1995 so even she is five years older than Harnaaz! Harnaaz's win propelled India into the elite eight countries that have won Miss Universe three times or more. The other 7 countries are: USA, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden and Mexico. See the updated list of Who Has the Most Miss Universes. Some also suspect that since South Africa, Mexico and India have all recently crowned their third Miss Universe winners that another country that has two Miss Universe winners could be in line to win for 2022 and I know Steve Harvey is probably aching to crown Colombia after his notable blunder from 2015 when he announced Colombia as the winner when she was actually the runner-up and had to correct to mistake and announced Philippines as the winner causing an uncomfortable transfer of the crown. Let's see who Colombia crowns next year or could it be Brazil with their streak since hosting in 2011 being broken in 2021? Or even Thailand with their streak also being broken in 2021?? Let's keep an eye on these countries! My friend Wassim also noted that countries winning Miss World in recent years have soon after won a Miss Universe crown and Harnaaz's win follows this trend. i.e. USA won Miss World 2010 then Miss Universe 2012, Venezuela won Miss World 2011 then Miss Universe 2013, Philippines won Miss World 2013 then Miss Universe 2015 and 2018, South Africa won Miss World 2014 then won Miss Universe 2017 and 2019, Mexico won Miss World 2018 then Miss Universe 2020 and now India after winning Miss World 2017 has won Miss Universe 2021 so perhaps there's other Miss Universe wins in store for other countries that have recently won Miss World like Jamaica did in 2019 or Puerto Rico 2016 or Spain 2015? So many possibilities!

Harnaaz Sandhu's family from left to right - brother Harnoor holding pet dog Roger, mother Ravinder and father P.S. SandhuHarnaaz's family couldn't attend the pageant due to Covid restrictions but they definitely cheered her on from home. Pictured here are Harnaaz's brother Harnoor holding pet dog Roger, mother Ravinder and father P.S. Sandhu. This is the first year that the Miss Universe pageant was held in Israel, in the resort city of Eilat and the team behind the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest which was also held in Israel was behind the production of the 2021 Miss Universe pageant and I must say they did a very fine job. The Universe Arena that the pageant was held in was built in Portugal before being shipped to Eilat. The stage production was magnificent and Miss Universe has shown the Universe how they consistently set the standard of staging a great pageant and I was very pleased with the result. My friend Hernan mentioned how fitting it is for a country starting with I (India) to win in another country starting with I (Israel), like how a V country-Venezuela won in Vietnam in 2008. Of course, the 2020 Miss Universe pageant was held in May 2021 due to Covid affecting the world in 2020 giving Mexico's Andrea Meza the shortest full term reign as a Miss Universe for approximately seven months and at the time, there were talks that the 2021 Miss Universe pageant would be held in Costa Rica (whose delegate made the top 10 for 2020 but went unplaced for 2021...) but that deal obviously didn't materialize and the announcement that Israel would host Miss Universe came as a surprise.
I was expecting to see some dropouts due to Covid as France's delegate had tested positive after arriving in Israel which led to her being quarantined for several days and not being able to participate in all activities but she recovered in time and even made the top 10! Originally, 78 contestants were expected to compete but that number actually grew to 80 with Bahrain sending a first time delegate who did not wear a swimsuit for the preliminary swimsuit competition and she didn't even wear a tight fitness wear outfit but just a pantsuit with loose flowy fabric at the legs which was interesting (not even a burkini??) but for instances like that, I don't know that I would even bother. With various forms of a vaccine now available this year, most travellers to Israel were expected to have three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or two doses within six months and show proof of vaccination upon arrival. There was supposed to be a debut of the United Arab Emirates competing this year but those plans fell through so we’ll see if they compete in 2022. Returning this year were the countries of: Equatorial Guinea, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Sweden, and Turkey. Morocco was the most surprising of these nations since they last competed in 1978 but their relationship with Israel likely encouraged their participation this year. However, the original winner of the Morocco title, Fatima-Zahra Khayat suffered a leg injury and as a result, her runner-up, Kawtar Benhalima competed instead. Morocco hasn’t placed since 1957. Of course, politics led to some withdrawals including nations like: Barbados, Belize, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Uruguay. Indonesia has been doing well in recent years so their non-participation is perhaps the most shocking. Malaysia also has had consistent participation recently but these two nations opted to boycott this year accusing Israel of war crimes and discrimination against Palestinians. In 2019, the Eurovision contest which was held in the city of Tel Aviv was also boycotted by several performers. Some members of South Africa’s government had also voiced that they would not support Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane as she competed for the Miss Universe crown but Lalela had the last laugh as she finished in the very respectable position of 2nd runner up. In the wake of a new Covid Omicron variant discovered in South Africa, travellers from Southern African countries were banned from entering other countries but Lalela had been granted special permission to enter Israel to compete along with Namibia’s delegate, Chelsi Shikongo. Many people feel that the delegates should be allowed to pursue their dreams and compete in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the crown and leave the politics out of it. The official announcement to hold the Miss Universe pageant in Eilat, Israel was done on July 20th with date of December 12 confirmed on October 27th. The event was brought to Israel after Israeli Miss Universe producers Tali Eshkoli (who also produced the 2019 Eurovision song contest in Israel) and Assaf Blecher became involved. Blecher described it as a dream come true and as a previous producer for Miss Universe, he had been working for years to bring the production to Israel. He believed it would happen, mainly to showcase to the world the story of his country as warm, loving and accepting. The Miss Universe pageant is also currently owned by IMG with co-CEO, Ari Emanuel who is also of Israeli descent. This year’s special performer was Israel’s own Noa Kirel. Preliminary judges - Rina Mor Goder, Lori Harvey, Cheslie Kryst, Marian Rivera, Iris Mittenaere, Urvashi Rautela Surprisingly, the other major international pageant, Miss World which was supposed to be held on December 16 in Puerto Rico was postponed on the day of the pageant to March 16, 2022 and this was due to about a quarter of the contestants testing positive for Covid after being in Puerto Rico for a month and exposure to performer Bad Bunny who had recently performed for a large concert but Miss Universe appears to have done everything right with a tight schedule and most importantly, no technically skipped years although 2014, 2016 and 2020 were held in the following years but we are all caught up and Miss Universe is still regarded as superior! Miss World 2019, Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica having won her title in December 2019 has had the longest reign as Miss World since there was no 2020 Miss World pageant due to Covid and now, there won't be one in 2021 either so assuming it doesn't get postponed again, her reign is more than 2.3 years long. Miss World started in 1951 and Miss Universe started in 1952 but now due to Covid's impacts, Miss Universe has held more pageants than Miss World has! Miss International which is the Japanese owned major international pageant has also not had a pageant since 2019.
Steve Harvey returned as host this year after skipping the 2020 pageant (which was hosted by Mario Lopez and Olivia Culpo-Miss Universe 2012) but since having Steve Harvey means a return to a major network, FOX after the 2020 pageant aired on fyi, I can tolerate Steve. However, the U.S. ratings were considered low this year drawing in 2.7 million American viewers compared to 2019's 3.8 million viewers but with the plethora of media out there in the streaming world, it is becoming increasingly harder for major events to draw in the viewers they once did and also, people have viewing parties for events like these and even I attended one myself so I question how accurate these numbers are and they were up against football games on the other major networks and sporting events tend to enjoy higher ratings so it also depends on the competition. They probably could have done more to publicize this pageant though. Carson Kressley also returned to co-host the preliminaries and was color commentating for the final telecast. It did feel like the national costume competition was also needlessly long. Not everything has to be 2 hours. Keep it tight. Later, I realized it was so long since they were using the national costumes for the opening introductions of the delegates and that's why they made El Salvador go out a second time without a mask covering her eyes. This year's selection committee was once again all-female as it has been since 2018. The impressive panel of judges were: Iris Mittenaere (Miss Universe 2016 of France), Urvashi Rautela (actress, model and Miss India 2015 and also my prediction to win Miss Universe 2015 but went unplaced), Adriana Lima (Brazilian supermodel), Adamari López (Boricua actress), Rena Sofer (actress), Marian Rivera (Filipino actress) and Lori Harvey (daughter of Steve Harvey) with two others serving as preliminary judges: Cheslie Kryst-Miss USA 2019 (who color commentated for finals) and Rina Messinger-Mor Goder (Miss Universe 1976 and Israel's only Miss Universe) who I was very glad to see return as she hasn't been seen attending a Miss Universe pageant since 1978 and she didn't judge finals but was featured as a special guest during the telecast. I loved that Rina was featured in the intro driving the 'Miss 1976' car greeting Andrea Meza in the 'Miss 2020' car and it was a cool way of showcasing the desert land in Israel with Noa Kirel's exotic chant almost bringing the past into the future with Noa Kirel's performance at the start of her song 'Bad Little Thing' with a great set of dancers that some people originally thought were some of the delegates but no, the delegates walked on stage shortly after.

It was down to a top 16 this year (compared to last year which had a top 21) with the 16th spot going to the winner of the online vote which was Vietnam for the second year in a row and the top 16 competed in swimsuits after their chat with Steve Harvey with the top 10 then competed in gowns and the top 5 answered the judge's questions with a cut to a top 3 this year so this was a similar format to what we saw in 2019 back when Miss Universe was on FOX but this format was decent and it didn't feel overly interview-heavy. Some special awards were also handed out which included Best National Costume which went to the delegate from Nigeria – Maristella Okpala. Two special awards were given on preliminary night with the Spirit of Carnival Award won by THE Bahamas-Chantel O'Brien. I found it odd that she was categorized under The Bahamas and appeared in the T's alphabetically instead of the B's this year (it's like the opening of 2002 all over again...) but the name of the country is technically The Bahamas but if you're going to do this, why not THE USA or THE Netherlands or THE Cayman Islands?? The social impact award went to Chile's Antonia Figueroa. They appear to have permanently done away with the regional divisions with Europe getting a higher quota of delegates in previous years when that was implemented and interestingly enough, Europe only had two delegates place (France and Great Britain) which happened to be the same two European countries that placed last year coincidentally but only France advanced to the top 10. In 2019, there were 20 quarterfinalists and they were selected by region (the Americas, Europe and Africa/Asia Pacific) with 5 wildcard spots. How did I do with my predictions? Well, this year had some major surprises but I think the winner was quite clear from the start. For those of you who read my first and second round prethoughts, you will know that India was my winner up until preliminaries when I was debating between Belgium and India but of course, I just had to make the wrong choice... Ugh. Belgium's Kedist Deltour reunites with her father in Ethiopia I decided at the end to give Belgium my win when I should have stuck with India as it turns out Belgium didn't even place so it looks like Kedist of Nazareth with her stunning face and compelling story of being adopted from Ethiopia didn't pull her into the semifinals. Coincidentally, this is the second year in a row when I chose a delegate that was born in Africa but was representing a first world nation as last year, I chose Canada's Nova Stevens who had a similar story but also went unplaced... This is strangely enough the third year in a row that my winner didn't even place. Ireland 2019 didn't place either and I thought she had the accomplishments that the IMG era was looking for. I picked 8 of the top 16 plus 2 alternates (Vietnam and Japan) and 1 honorable mention (Philippines). 5 of the semifinalists missed my list entirely and they were: Aruba, THE Bahamas (okay, we get's THE Bahamas, not Bahamas), Great Britain, Panama and Singapore. Interviews were held before the preliminary swimsuit and gown competitions so usually this leads to more surprises than expected. The eight ladies in my list that didn't place were: my winner Belgium, Brazil (whose streak in the semifinals was broken this year as they had placed every year from 2011 to 2020 whereas the streaks of USA placing every year since 2011 continues and the Philippines placing every year since 2010 which gives them the longest streak in the semifinals still currently), Canada, Namibia, Portugal, Ghana, Spain and Chile. What happened to my ladies that didn't place? First off, Belgium was a favorite and Kedist of Nazareth would have been a fitting choice to win in Israel which also notably has a town called Nazareth from which a certain Savior hailed but her story of being adopted from Ethiopia and recently reunited with her father which was similar to last year's Canadian delegate, Nova Stevens who also happened to be my prediction to win for 2020. I did notice Belgium's ill-fitting gown in preliminaries but thought the judges would look past that and there was also the whole Denny Mendez effect. Denny Mendez was Miss Italy for 1997 and my prediction to win that year but being the first black Miss Italy led to some controversy and I felt that the fact that Kedist didn't look like what is traditionally perceived as Belgian that she would not be her country's first Miss Universe similarly to Denny Mendez not winning Italy's first Miss Universe crown but with the world increasingly becoming a global village, I wonder how soon we will see a Miss Universe winner outside of the USA that doesn't necessarily look like the majority of people in that country. Belgium and Italy both have never won the Miss Universe crown but Italy has two 1st runner ups (1960 and 1987) and Belgium has two top 6 placements (1981 and 1992). Next up was Brazil who was an early favorite but the blonde latina look seems to have fallen out of favor but Teresa fell on most lists after preliminaries largely due to a stumbly gown performance in preliminaries but with Adriana Lima being a judge, one would think this would have helped Brazil but it was not to be and their long streak since hosting in 2011 was broken this year. Canada sent an appointed candidate, Tamara Jemuovic who was runner-up to Nova Stevens and Tamara was very well-spoken, beautiful, entrepreneurial and was the overall package but I think since pageantry isn't held in as high regard in Canada as other nations that their delegates suffer as a result. Namibia's delegate Chelsi Shikongo was notably named after the late, great Miss Universe 1995-Chelsi Smith of the USA who won her crown in Namibia and Chelsi looked like she had what it took to replicate her namesake's feat but it was not to be sadly. I loved how Chelsi wore a red gown with a flowy fabric from the neck similarly to Chelsi Smith to pay homage to that iconic queen who became an angel in 2018 after a bout with liver cancer. Portugal's delegate Oricia Dominguez was actually 2nd runner up at Miss Venezuela 2018 and we know how strong those Venezuelan contestants are but they have had a harder time in recent years and I thought Oricia was strong enough and the fact that the Universe arena that the pageant was held in was built in Portugal before being shipped to Israel. Ghana was one of my early favorites as I liked her overall look and she had a stunning physique and a bold blue gown. I saw the judges mostly noting her during the preliminary gown competition so I thought she was in but she was probably close. Spain was another favorite being a more exotic delegate with a Moroccan mother and she carried herself more seductively and not typically European so I thought she would make the cut and Chile was my final choice who performed well in preliminaries as an accomplished delegate who is an environmental engineer, a black-belt in Tae Kwon Do and even a beekeeper but I guess her social impact award was a consolation prize...



Winner=India-Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu

Winner=Belgium-Kedist Deltour

1st Runner Up=Paraguay-Nadia Ferreira

1st Runner Up=India-Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu*

2nd Runner Up=South Africa-Lalela Mswane

2nd Runner Up=Puerto Rico-Michelle Colon*

FINALISTS (alpha'l):


Colombia-Valeria Ayos

Paraguay-Nadia Ferreira*

Philippines-Beatrice Luigi Gomez

France-Clémence Botino*



Aruba-Thessaly Zimmerman

Venezuela-Luiseth Materan*

France-Clémence Botino

Brazil-Teresa Santos

Puerto Rico-Michelle Colon

Canada-Tamara Jemuovic

The Bahamas-Chantel O'Brian

Colombia-Valeria Ayos*

USA-Elle Smith

USA-Elle Smith*



Great Britain-Emma Collingridge

Namibia-Chelsi Shikongo

Japan-Juri Watanabe

South Africa-Lalela Mswane*

Panama-Brenda Smith-Lezama

Portugal-Oricia Dominguez

Singapore-Nandita Banna

Ghana-Silvia Naa Morkor Commodore

Venezuela-Luiseth Materan

Spain-Sarah Loinaz

Vietnam-Kim Duyên Nguyễn Huỳnh §

Chile-Antonia Figueroa


ALTERNATES: Vietnam*, Poland, Japan*, Argentina, Czech Republic


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Thailand, Philippines*, Peru, Italy, Honduras

§ = won online vote

* = made actual top 16

Steve Harvey and FranceAs each of the top 16 were announced, they stepped up to Steve Harvey for a chat. First up was France and Clemence was absolutely the right one to call up first as she had to quarantine for 10 days after arriving in Israel due to testing positive for Covid which lessened her Miss Universe experience but placing in the top 10 surely made up for it. I noted in my first round prethoughts under the article 'Crepe Clemence' (instead of Crepe Suzette) about a whole flip-flop situation concerning the French delegates in recent years. Due to the uncertainty of dates of the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants and with the Coronavirus pandemic affecting dates and the world in general as the Miss France pageant is normally also held in December, it was decided that Amandine Petit who was crowned Miss France 2021 would be sent to represent France at Miss Universe 2020 which was held in May 2021 where Amandine placed among the top 21. So that Amandine could crown Miss France 2022, which is being held on December 11 (the day before the Miss Universe 2021 pageant), Clemence Botino who was actually crowned Miss France 2020 (the year before Amandine won) is now finally getting her opportunity to compete at Miss Universe 2021. Good for France for sticking to tradition and thinking ahead, I say. This same scenario was previously replicated when Flora Coquerel competed at Miss Universe 2015 placing among the top 5 that year but Flora’s Miss France successor, Camille Cerf, competed at Miss Universe 2014 (which was held in January 2015) placing among the top 15 for Miss Universe 2014. My friend Wassim points out that since the same scenario that happened to Flora is also happening to Clemence with their flip-flop (crêpe) delegates Amandine and Camille placing just as semifinalists and not advancing past the first round, that could have meant that Clemence was destined for a spot in the top 5 just like Flora but it was a top 10 placement instead this time around which is still respectable. Exotic Clemence actually hails from the French territory of Guadeloupe. Steve asked Clemence how she passed the time during her quarantine. Clemence replied that it was hard but said 'Dear Life, I trust you and here am I at Miss Universe competition tonight!' She also mentioned that we are dealing with an international crisis and that this situation made her stronger and she wanted to thank everyone for their love and support and she is ready now. Next up was Colombia and of course, Steve played up the whole trying to avoid Colombia due to the incident of 2015 and asked Valeria if they love him in Colombia and she said, 'Yes, of course, we love you!' and snickered. She was asked why she once swam for a mile in the open ocean and if something was chasing her. She replied that it is was just some manta-rays and green-eyed barracudas and she said when she was a child, she used to swim the sea of seven colors in the beautiful archipelago of San Andres Island and there is a myth when Simon Gonzalez who was a poet died, some barracudas cried blue tears under the green moon and said wasn't that beautiful? I asked Valeria to call on mia in my first round prethoughts and she didn't disappoint as she painted a picture with her answer and you can tell that she is a former Miss Earth contestant as that pageant does mention much about environmental causes. Valeria finished as the second runner-up earning the Miss Earth-Water title at Miss Earth 2018 and she almost replicated that feat at Miss Universe by placing in the top 5. Valeria's exotic appearance can be attributed to having a father is Colombian of Spanish descent while her mother is of Trinidadian descent. She was originally supposed to compete for the 2020 Colombian crown but a bout with Covid in addition to partial facial paralysis caused her to withdraw but she recovered in time to capture the 2021 Colombian crown. She says that although she was born in Cartagena, she was later raised in the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina, so in addition to Spanish, she is also fluent in English which is now looked at as more of a job requirement for Miss Universe in recent years. She claims that after she was appointed as the representative of the San Andrés Island, some negative comments of people from that area had not stopped, because she is not a native of that area. She claims the comments against her led Valeria to enter a stress crisis that ended in facial paralysis and she has had to start treatment… Next up was a surprise pick, Singapore which is a country that hasn't placed since they hosted the pageant back in 1987! Nandita did have a distinct look with the short hair and spoke well so she must have impressed the judges in interview. Steve asked her that since Singapore is such a small country, how does it feel to have made such a big impact at Miss Universe. Nandita replied that she was so grateful and thankful for this opportunity to represent her country and it has been more than 30 years since Singapore has made it to the semifinals so she is just so excited right now. Next up was Panama who was an interesting country-hopping and even state-hopping story. Brenda Smith-Lezama is a name you might remember from Miss Teen USA 2013 where she represented Missouri and made the top 16 that year due to winning the online fan vote and even prior to that she was 2nd runner up at Miss Georgia Teen USA 2012 then she was 1st runner up at Miss Georgia USA 2017, then placed 12th at Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018, then country hopped to Mexico (her mother's native land) and was 2nd runner up at the 2020 pageant to select Mexico's delegate which was won by Andrea Meza who went on to win Miss Universe 2020 and then she country hopped again to Panama (her father's native land) and won that title to get to the Miss Universe stage and made the top 16! Whew, I'm getting dizzy! Oddly enough, Andrea Meza's runner up at the national level was Debora Hallal who represented Mexico for 2021 but did not place whereas Panama's delegate who finish one spot below Debora at the 2020 Mexican pageant did place! Brenda was very determined to get to this stage so I'll give her that. Interestingly enough, Miss USA 2007-Rachel Smith was also born in Panama and even though she and Brenda have the Smith name and both are in the journalism field, I'm not sure if Rachel and Brenda are related. This was more of a surprise pick for me as using this kind of country-hopping behavior gets punished (i.e. Bahamas 2011, Guam 2014, Haiti 2015) but there are exceptions like Puerto Rico 2019 and Thailand 1988. Steve asked her about crashing a U.N. meeting in order to get a job and how she managed to do that. Brenda replied by greeting Israel with a Shalom and said she believes in God's calling but also believes it is up to us to answer that call so when you are in an underdog situation, you have to take it into your own hands so through years of trying and failing to further her advocacy in human rights at the United Nations, she decided to hop of four flights and go all the way to the other side of the world, put herself in the room and ask for her chance which led to her becoming a United Nations fellow for human rights so if you can't find a seat at the table, go ahead and build your own. Next up was Puerto Rico who was asked reluctantly by Steve to teach him about the Afro-Caribbean dance called Bomba. Puerto Rico replied that since he loves the Caribbean, he'll love the dance but to get a little bit of context, Bomba was developed by their African ancestors so it's something that use to express themselves in a very creative way. She showed some steps by first saluting the drums, breaking hip to the right and left and going right-left in a turning motion.
Steve Harvey and IndiaNext up was THE Bahamas, placing for the first time in history which was another surprise (even though the Bahamas' delegate last year was among my picks interestingly enough) and Chantel also sported short hair like fellow surprise delegate, Singapore. Steve asked her about her work as an etiquette consultant and Chantel asked if Steve ever visited the Bahamas and Steve said, 'All the time. You know that.' Hmmm... Chantel replied that you would know that manners and respect for them are a big thing and she decided to test a theory. In her travels she realized that a common interaction that we have is that respect and manners go a long way and so it's her duty to teach her clients the importance of having good table manners, formal dining, overall presentation aside from just runway skills and public speaking techniques. Japan followed who was one of my alternates so although she was a surprise for others, she wasn't for me. Juri did her duty and convinced the judges that she was semifinals material and humorously greeted Steve saying, 'My voice cracked, huh?' with a laugh. Juri is half-Korean on her mother's side which is interesting to note. Steve said he was nervous too and Juri said she was glad he's nervous in her nervousness so there were nerves all around, then Steve calmly said they're paying him then he asked her a question which I wish was asked more often that since this was the 70th anniversary of Miss Universe, which former titleholder did she admire the most and Juri gave a very expected answer replying her country's own Riyo Mori-Miss Universe 2007. She not only made Japanese people proud but she also showed us that Asian women can be queens when there was lack of Asian representation at that time and she was there to do the same. She will break stereotypes and inspire a new generation of women. Great Britain was up next and was asked to tell about her fascination with Medusa. Emma replied Medusa was an infamous female figure but was actually misunderstood. She was a victim but everyone told her story but her own so she decided through her creativity to give her a voice of her own and she inspired her platform to champion female empowerment and to give a voice to those that would otherwise remain silent. USA followed having won her national title just two weeks before leaving for Eilat, Israel to compete for the Miss Universe crown but this was nothing new. In the early years from 1952 to 1964, Miss USA and Miss Universe were concurrent events meaning that Miss USA upon being crowned would compete for the Miss Universe title just a few days later. I'm pretty sure 2022 will be more spaced out although we don't have dates yet. Elle was asked when she got a full night's sleep due to her already busy schedule as Miss USA. Elle replied that she couldn't remember but she was just running adrenaline for the past few weeks and that a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do and she is just proud to represent the United States of America. Why do I always think of Mai Shanley when Miss USA says the full name-the United States of America?? India was called up next as Steve asked her what she said and she said she greeted him with 'Namaste' which reminded me of the old joke of the alternate meaning of Namaste, like if asked if you want to go out later, one would reply, 'Namaste (Nah, Imma stay) at home!' LOL! Steve joked that he thought she said 'I must stay' and Harnaaz explained to Steve that it was a greeting in Hindi, an Indian language. Steve said he thought she said she must stay but he joked, 'Okay, you only got a minute.' Steve said he heard she does some good animal impressions and to give her best one. Harnaaz was a frightened look said, 'Oh my God, Steve! I was not expecting to do this on world stage. Um, but I have to do this. I have no other option. Um, I love cats. I love animals so I would love to make a cat. Brace yourself, everyone! (meows funnily five times to audience applause) but I have to say this Steve that you know this talent made me realize that we should never compromise with our hobbies because that can lead to your dream career.' I'm glad Harnaaz had the sense to give an intelligent answer afterwards and not just meow!
Steve Harvey and VenezuelaVietnam was next and Steve announced that she won the online fan vote. Kim greeted Israel with a Shalom and was asked what was the first place she would visit is after meeting so many delegates from different countries. Kim replied that until now, she could believe that she was there with 75 (it was actually 79) Miss Universe sisters and they were wonderful women and plans to travel with them. She cheekily replied that if she was lucky, the first place she would go is New York, the headquarters of the Miss Universe Organization (almost implying that she was going to win Miss Universe) and she will invite all of them to go work with her, to travel with her because she knows that the Miss Universe platform is a strong platform for women to raise their voices and to contribute their actions for the society and she emphatically expressed her love for her Miss Universe sisters! Aruba was next placing for only the third time in history. Steve said she looked surprised. Yes, we were! Thessaly just grinned and nodded with a 'Yes, I am' and that her mouth was open and she closed it with her hand but then it opened again so her sense of humor obviously appealed to the judges. She was asked since she wants to be a TV host, what show she wanted to host. Thessaly replied to Steve that he better look out for his job because she's coming for him. This reminded me of when Pennsylvania's Patricia Campbell said she was coming after Bob Goen's job during Miss Teen USA 1996. Steve humourously thanked her for coming and to go to her disc. Paraguay was next and was asked after greeting Israel with a Shalom to describe what a polyglot (mispronounced several ways at first) was. Even with Nadia's accent, I heard paliglet (almost like piglet) but she explained that a polyglot is someone that knows more than 3 languages and Nadia replied that she speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and Guarani which is an official language in Paraguay and she wanted to teach Steve something in Guarani and she taught him how to say Thank You pronounced as Aguyje but Steve intentionally mispronounced it several times. Nadia then said he was a great student. Philippines was up next maintaining the current longest running streak in the semifinals as they have placed 12 years in a row since Venus Raj started it all in 2010. Beatrice was a controversial figure this year for coming out as bisexual and some were unsure of how this would be received and if she would be treated as the 'special segment' girl like was done to delegates like Spain 2018 who was openly transgendered, Canada 2020 who reunited with her family in Africa and Iraq 2017 but Beatrice's whole bisexual topic was not mentioned during the telecast and the truth is, it shouldn't matter anyway. Naturally, there were many Philippines supporters in the audience to which Steve said several times that they were in Israel but it felt like they were in the Philippines. Steve asked her about her armband tattoo. Tattoos are usually frowned upon but it looks like Beatrice was the exception there too. She said her tattoo means rebirth and new beginnings so it was a cherry blossom that she got on her 23rd birthday and she got it to celebrate her womanhood. Venezuela was up next and she told Steve that it sounded amazing when he said Venezuela and that she loved it. Luiseth was an appointed delegate who was in the top 5 of Miss Venezuela 2020 which was won by Mariangel Villasmil who went unplaced at Miss Universe 2020 which is more of a rarity but it is even more rare for Venezuela to miss the semifinals two years in a row as that hasn't happened since they missed the semifinals three years in a row from 1973 to 1975 and you could tell that Luiseth and the Venezuelan team were determined to make sure they wouldn't miss the semifinals again this year. Steve asked Luiseth about her role as she recently starred in a TV series. After greeting the Israeli audience, Luiseth said she played a motorcycle rider. 'Can you imagine that? Me in a motorcycle with high heels? (laughs) It was my first time doing something like that. I'm not going to lie. There were many, many takes but in this moment, I consider myself as a professional so I'm ready to give you a ride if you need it. Do you agree?' Steve humourously replied that his wife would not let him ride a motorcycle with her. Finally, South Africa was called and she was asked since competing for Miss Universe was her childhood dream, how it felt. Lalela replied that it felt like Christmas morning but that she learned that dreams don't happen by chance. It's a culmination of hard work, dedication, discipline but she was truly so grateful to be there. When Andrea Meza came on stage to talk about her year (uh, I mean seven months) as Miss Universe, when she said she got a job hosting for Telemundo, I thought she was going to say that she was going to get married but her boyfriend seems to support her and maybe that is coming soon.

It was then on to the swimsuit competition set to 'Wave Your Flag' by Now United and 'Girl's Gotta' by Danger Twins. There were a variety of swimsuits and a lot more one-pieces than usual including some with sleeves which looked nice actually but PLEASE do away with those granny-panty style bottoms. They are not flattering... First up was France looking sensational with a nice white bikini with belt but I especially liked Clemence's hair as it really complemented her whole look. Colombia followed with the granny panties but she showed us that commanding catwalk for which Colombians are known and Valeria had a great body. Singapore followed in a maroon one piece and she was actually quite leggy with an indented waist but wider thigh gap though but her look was modelesque. Panama followed again with the granny panties but everything about her just seemed overdone and I think the judges caught on to that here. Puerto Rico followed in a navy blue one piece that looked great on her amazing body and she carried herself well with her amazing walk and hair and she is very telegenic. THE Bahamas followed in a white bikini and I will say that I saw backrolls and perhaps not the best body shape. Japan followed in a navy granny-panty bikini that did not flatter her waist line and her legs looked stumpy. Great Britain sported a maroon one-piece with more traditional shoulder straps and she looked decent but not outstanding. USA looked good but I couldn't help but get this exhausted vibe from her and with all these pageants crammed together, I can't blame her. Elle followed in a navy two-piece with the granny-panty bottoms and sporting her trademark blonde curls which reminded me of Ashley Coleman-Miss Teen USA 1999 and even Lynnette Cole-Miss USA 2000 who also happened to represent the USA in a year when India won Miss Universe. Next up was India, our winner, who looked incredible in her one-piece swimsuit and this was one of the more flattering styles with the v-shoulder straps and Harnaaz absolutely owned preliminaries so it was no surprise to see her dominate here. If I'm not mistaken, Harnaaz is the first Miss Universe to win wearing a one-piece swimsuit since USA's Brook Lee in 1997 24 years ago! Vietnam followed looking great in a white bikini with belt and her long flowing hair really added to her overall look. A lot of people accused her of mimicking Venezuela's Sthefany Gutierrez who was 2nd runner up at Miss Universe 2018 even the brushing away of the hair during the preliminary gown competition even in a similar gown but since Vietnam didn't advance, the general public didn't get to see this gown. Aruba followed in yet another white granny-panty bikini. I wish she did something better with her hair though as it reminded me of the hairstyle of Brazil's Deise Nunes in 1986. Paraguay followed and Nadia showed us why she was a favorite from the beginning looking spectacular in that finely cut navy blue bikini showing off her abs. Philippines followed in a maroon one-piece and she was decent but I noticed her legs inverted almost diagonally when she walked on occasion. Venezuela was up next with that tall physique that classic Venezuelan body and strong walk wearing one of the better swimsuits of this bunch, a maroon bikini with a nicely cut bra. Finally, South Africa followed in the white granny-panty bikini that too many of the semifinalists wore. She had the open mouth smile and Lalela looked great. I think Venezuela and Vietnam should have advanced to top 10 instead of Aruba and THE Bahamas. I'm glad that there were special segments with former titleholders reminiscing for the 70th anniversary featuring Greece's Corinna Tsopei-Miss Universe 1964, Israel's Rina Messinger-Miss Universe 1976, South Africa's Margaret Gardiner-Miss Universe 1978, Thailand's Porntip Nakhirunkankok-Miss Universe 1988, Norway's Mona Grudt-Miss Universe 1990, and USA's Brook Lee-Miss Universe 1997. In the final segment before the crowning, also featured were Trinidad & Tobago's Wendy Fitzwilliam-Miss Universe 1998, Namibia's Michelle McLean-Miss Universe 1992, Venezuela's Gabriela Isler-Miss Universe 2013 and Venezuela's Barbara Palacios Teyde-Miss Universe 1986.

After the top 10 were announced with their video packages shown, it was time for the evening gown competition set to JoJo's performances of 'In Your Room,' 'Too Little Too Late,' which she also performed at Miss Teen USA 2006 and concluding with 'Worst (I Assume).' Some of the instrumental guitar parts of the song played when the ladies walked out reminded me of NSYNC's 'I Drive Myself Crazy' which was the evening gown song for Miss Teen USA 1999. First up, Paraguay looked classically stunning in a light mint-green flowy gown with winged flowy scarves attached at the transparent but jewelled sleeves and she looked like Aphrodite arising from the seafoam to become a goddess of beauty. Nadia worked her gown so well. Puerto Rico followed in a yellow and black gown with beaded fringe. At first, it made me think of bumblebees but later I realized she was going for the jaguar look and it was nice and certainly a vast improvement from the purple 80s throwback she wore in the preliminaries. USA followed in a shades of teal gown with nude illusion fabric at the waist and leg and it did have a sort of ocean look to it but I saw a pic of her wearing curly blonde extensions and I actually would liked to have seen her sport that look in competition as I think it would have helped her. She had several gowns designed for her by Michael Cinco and this one was a vast improvement from the spoiled lettuce gown she wore in preliminaries. India followed in a light-beige gown adorned with jewels and some beaded fringe with a slit in the middle once again rocking the v-shoulder straps and Harnaaz looked so regal like the queen she is. South Africa followed in a unique gown that almost looked like an ornately designed architectural pillar with gold designs on it and it was quite the art-piece. I don't think it need the shoulder pads though but I liked the cuff-neck and a gown like this is sometimes hard to wear but Lalela showed it off very well. THE Bahamas followed in a light-grey long-sleeved gown with nude illusion fabric covered with silver sparkles at the bust and midriff. I didn't consider this gown figure-flattering so this was as far as she would go. Philippines followed wearing a gold gown with diagonal designs and one intricately designed chiffon sleeve that looked very elegant and was a vast improvement from her preliminary gown also. France wore a tan beaded gown with a deep v-cut at the bust and cut-outs at the under-bust and back. It didn't have as much power as her preliminary gown so I probably would have gone with something different here. Colombia followed in a light-gold gown with beaded multicolored jewel lines going vertically from the bust to the bottom and a pleated train and it was a divine gown. Finally, Aruba followed in a silver one-shoulder strapped gown with an odd cut at the top of the leg slit. I will say that I did like her hair better in the chinyon than how it was earlier.

Top 5 - India, South Africa, Paraguay, Colombia, PhilippinesAfter the top 5 were announced as India, South Africa, Paraguay, Colombia and Philippines, it was time for the judges' questions. India chose Rena Sofer who asked, "Many people think climate change is a hoax. What would you do to convince them otherwise?" India replied, "Honestly, my heart breaks to see how nature is going through a lot of problems and it's all due to our irresponsible behavior and I totally feel that this is the time to take actions and talk less because our each action could either kill or save nature. Prevent and protect is better than repent and repair and this is what I'm trying to convince you guys today. Thank you." Climate change is obviously a hot-button topic right now so I'm sure a lot of contestants prepared for such a question and Harnaaz delivered this answer very eloquently as a winner should. South Africa chose Urvashi Rautela who asked, "Should tweets and social media comments from a person in their teenage years be held against them years later?" South Africa replied, "I believe that everybody should be held accountable for their actions and if a person doesn't know how to act on social media, they should be cancelled. I believe in cancel culture. In the same breath, I also believe in redemption culture and hoping that the person has matured and has learned better and done better. I hope that they could do better and be redeemed so I do believe that they can um, grow and be allowed um, a gap to do that. Thank you." This was another strong answer as is typically expected of South African delegates. Paraguay chose Adriana Lima who asked, "How can women best handle body-shaming?" (I know that translator probably could have better translated body-shaming to something like 'criticando el cuerpo' or something to that effect) but luckily Nadia is a polyglot! Paraguay replied, "Our body is our temple so we must take care of it. Our inner beauty is what's really matter. Let's cultivate our inner beauty so it can reflect to our external beauty. Thank you." It was a simple but concise and effective answer. Good job, Nadia. Colombia chose Lori Harvey who asked, "According to Global Citizen, 95% of the world's countries are led by a male head of state. How would the world be different if more women were in charge?" Again, I'm getting Patricia Campbell flashbacks from Miss Teen USA 1996. Colombia answered, "Women are leaders by nature. We have the power to raise our voice and make transcendental decisions in society as role models make an example but not just with words with action. That's why women raising our voice as in this platform called Miss Universe, we are taking charge of our lives and deciding what we want to uh, uh, apport, uh, to the society in order to make it a better one so women, let's raise our voice and make us a better united universe. Thank you." I think she might have wanted to use the word 'bring' instead of 'apport' but this was a great answer but perhaps somewhat longwinded. Finally, Philippines chose Iris Mittenaere who asked, "Given the ever changing Covid situation, what is your opinion of mandating a universal vaccine passport?" Philippines answered, "Boker Tov (Good morning), Israel! Shalom! I believe that public health is everyone's responsibility and to mandate a vaccine inoculation is necessary and if, pa, uh, mandating pass - a vaccine passport would help us in regulating and uh, the rollouts of vaccine and mitigate the situation of the pandemic today then I would agree on mandating the necessary, uh, passport of vaccination. Thank you." I would say this was the weakest delivery of the top 5 answers as it was somewhat stumbly but I did call the top 3 right after this round so I think it was clear who would advance at this stage.

Top 3 - India, South Africa, ParaguayFinally, the top 3 - South Africa, India and Paraguay were asked the final question, "What advice would you give to young women watching on how to deal with the pressures they face today?" South Africa answered, "I would implore young women today to choose courage over comfort every opportunity they get. I'd also like young women to know that since the beginning of time, they have had anything, everything rather, within them to achieve anything they have wanted. It is unfortunately the world that convinced us that we did not. Thank you." This answer was good - especially the line to choose courage over comfort but I almost got the impression that Lalela didn't really want to win just with some of her facial expressions during the night and the whole heated situation with her government not supporting her participation in Israel may have made Lalela a ball of nerves. India answered, "Well, I think the biggest pressure the youth of today is facing is to believe in themselves. To know that you are unique and that's what makes you beautiful. Stop comparihg yourselves with others and let's talk about more important things that's happening worldwide. I think this is what you need to understand. Come out. Speak for yourself because you are the leader of your life. You are the voice of your own. I believed in myself and that's why I'm standing here today. Thank you." Harnaaz paused at the beginning of her answer to gather her thoughts similarly to Sushmita Sen in 1994 but she delivered a confident answer with an impactful message and demonstrated here why she was the best candidate for the job of Miss Universe. Finally, Paraguay answered, "I've been through so many hard situations in my life but I overcome them so I want all women, all person who is watching in this moment to join forces to do what you are meant to do because you can do it no matter the situation. You can overcome it and you can always be victorious. Thank you." This answer came across as somewhat preachy and inauthentic but it was still decent.

After the final look set to a gorgeous rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (or as I say "Halleberrylujah") sung in English, Hebrew and Arabic by Harel Skaat, Valerie Hamati and Narkis, it was time for Andrea Meza to say her farewell as she became very emotional and the results were announced. South Africa was 2nd runner up and after another blunder with Steve Harvey saying 'Portugal' instead of Paraguay blaming it on what was written for him... we learned that Paraguay was 1st runner up and the coronation in the Holy Land was for another very religious country, India with Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu capturing a third Miss Universe crown for the country that believes that its people are its most valuable resource. Gold glitter filled the stage and what a spectacular show this 70th Miss Universe pageant was. Shortly after doing the media rounds in Israel, Harnaaz flew to India for a homecoming celebration and she was so warmly received so we have a very worthy Miss Universe this year and as the state of the world increasingly becomes more uncertain, let's look at the glass as half-full as Miss Universe 2005-Natalie Glebova said and be optimistic.

 The Prethoughts - Miss Universe 2021



Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP