After years of hardwork and struggle, Harnaaz turned her dream into reality. However, the newly crowned queen made way to every Indian’s heart with her charming smile and humility. In an all-exclusive interview, she opens up about her remarkable national victory, her vision for the betterment of society, preparation for the big international venture, future plans, and more. Here are some excerpts from the same:
How do you feel after winning the LIVA Miss Diva Universe 2021 title?
It definitely feels overwhelming. It is such a huge responsibility. I feel very happy and grateful to each one who supported me and had faith in my ability and skills since day one. But at the same time, I think it’s time to realize that it’s done, the finale is over, and I need to return to reality and work because I have only around 40 days to prepare for Miss Universe. It’s been 21 years since India won its last crown, and it is the 70th edition of Miss Universe. I plan to make the best out of this opportunity and make my country proud. It surely is a challenge for me and the whole organization as we have a brief span to help me prepare for the coveted crown.
You started your journey a few years ago, what kept you determined to continue your battle for the crown?
It all started when I was 17 years old, with Times Fresh face. I never knew that the one thing which I least expected would actually change my whole life. I realized my ultimate passion for representing India on an international platform, doing something remarkable, and bringing glory to my country. The process was slow yet steady.
Recently I was hospitalized due to ulcers in my stomach; I have never been admitted to a hospital before. And that’s when I had this fire in me to do something big right away and not wait around any longer. I came across the upcoming events LIVA Miss Diva 2021, and I realized it was now or never. I worked really hard, and the transformation was witnessed by everyone close to me. People appreciated and complimented me for the drastic change, and I knew I had to do it if I really wanted to achieve my dream!
My family has been my constant support, especially my mom. She’s my hero, and being a doctor, she empowers not just me but other women as well. My father used to and still calls me ‘Punjab ki Sherni.’ It’s been long since Punjab has had a crown winner, and people are eagerly waiting to meet me at my homecoming event.
Platforms like Miss Diva encourage us; it gives us the power to understand who we truly are and what we want from life. I was able to discover myself through this journey.
The national title comes with a huge responsibility; you are now an inspiration to the younger generation and the hope of our country. So what is your message to all those young aspirants?
I urge people to understand that they need not be like me. Everyone is unique, and that’s what makes them beautiful. So you may not be like somebody else, if you want to achieve your dream, believe in yourself, transform, train for it, but never doubt or underestimate yourself. So my message to all of you is, do not compare yourself to others. For me, my determination, focus, and steadfast attitude towards my dream have helped me achieve my goal.
We know you have experienced issues with mental health. Could you brief us about how you overcame it?
Growing up, I was bullied, body-shamed for being too skinny, and mocked for my accent. These instances severely affected me. But I’m happy that it happened because the Harnaaz you see today is different from who she used to be; I’ve become a stronger version of myself. Everything happens for a reason in our life; it’s up to us how we take it. So mental health has definitely been a very important part of my life; I learned a lot. Even now, I take time to meditate; my mental health is so strong that I no longer feel like a victim. When people text me stating how I inspired them, it makes me really happy.
Your predecessor, Adline Castelino, played a significant role towards her social mission projects; what is your vision for society?
My priority, as stated before, is to spread awareness on mental health, and along with that, I would like to advocate for female hygiene. My mother is a gynaecologist, she emphasizes the importance of female hygiene and spreading awareness to every individual in society.
I’ve been to hospitals and have connected with doctors who explained the importance of taking care of hygiene; many people are still unaware of cervical cancer. I have followed Adline’s advocacy about PCOD, and I really appreciate how she has been so keen and dedicated towards her advocacy that now people are very much aware of the meaning and symptoms of PCOD. Over the period, doctors have helped me educate many people, and I am associated with an NGO in Chandigarh.
Do you miss any part of your everyday life after winning the crown?
For years I have dreamt of being where I am today, this is what I actually wished for, and I’m ready to take charge and fulfill the roles and responsibilities that come along with the title. It’s not overconfidence, I’ve prepared for a very long time, so I do not miss anything except my family. I wish they could be here with me to witness my preparation, my journey to making my country proud.
Is there any part of your journey you would like to change?
I think we all want to change many things about ourselves, especially many of our bad decisions. But I believe everything happens for a reason. I truly believe in God, and I’m happy that I made those mistakes and transformed into a stronger version of myself. And tomorrow, if I get a chance to live another life, I will still choose myself. Because I know I have evolved, I’m still in the process of becoming the person I aspired to be.
Looking forward to the next challenge – Miss Universe, how do you plan to prepare?
I have already started communicating with a lot of girls from other countries, and we’re super excited to meet each other, but at the same time, I prepare myself watching other contestants, not by comparing myself to them but by making sure that I check all boxes; communication, ramp walk, personality development, diet, and health.
It’s a challenge for me and the whole team since we have just 40 days, and I am filled with a lot of gratitude for their faith in me. My ultimate goal is to make my country proud. I have been receiving love and support not just from India but also from the Philippines, South Africa, and Indonesia; it makes me happy that they address me as India. This crown I wear is a responsibility to make my country proud and bring the Miss Universe crown back to India after 21 years.
What are your future plans apart from representing India at Miss Universe?
For now, my focus is to slay the ramp at Miss Universe, and I need to make the most out of it. But apart from that, I wish to be a professional actor and a model, and I am really looking forward to being a part of Bollywood and someday even Hollywood. Currently, I am also awaiting the release of my Punjabi debut film, ‘Bai Ji Kuttange.’
Self-belief and hard work pay off, and Harnaaz’s journey is a witness to it. We are delighted to see that the diva is on the right path, focusing on her dream to bring home the third crown of Miss Universe, after Sushmita Sen and Lara Dutta.
We wish the queen all success in her future endeavors!