Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu was crowned the next Miss Universe in a glitzy ceremony in the Red Sea port of Eilat in the early hours of Monday morning, marking the 70th anniversary of the beauty competition.
Sandhu advanced to the finals out of 80 contestants from all corners of the world, just edging out Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira and Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane to take over the crown from the reigning Miss Universe, Miss Mexico Andrea Meza.
But while Sandhu took the top prize in the three-hour live competition, which wrapped up at 5 a.m. local time so it could air live in primetime in North, Central and South America, there was another beauty prominently on display to an audience of hundreds of millions of people — Israel.
“Tonight we are in the beautiful country of Israel,” said host Steve Harvey as he opened the telecast. “This is a country with so much rich culture and history.”
Israeli artists also took top billing at the glitzy event with the evening opening with a performance by Israeli pop singer Noa Kirel, who performed her English-language single “Bad Little Thing.”
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Meg Omecene, the communications director for Miss Universe, said the organization was excited about having Kirel open the competition.
“They really wanted to lift up a young female artist, and the platform that Noa Kirel is stepping into tonight — she could be seen by as many as 600 million people across the globe,” said Omecene. “That’s a really special platform for an artist, and I know that they wanted to bring a local flavor to the competition as well. And I know the ladies have been loving dancing to her music.”
Assaf Blecher, an executive producer on the Israeli side of the production, said Miss Universe was thrilled to have Noa Kirel perform to audiences around the globe.
Noa Kirel performs on stage during the 70th Miss Universe Competition on December 13, 2021 in Eilat. (Benjamin Askinas/Miss Universe)
“I think she’s amazing, I think she’s going to be very successful in the US, I think she’s on the cusp between being local to being international,” said Blecher on Sunday, adding that he had to work to convince the American organizers of Miss Universe to come on board. “She’s not known, she’s semi-known now, and Fox fell in love with her, and we got approval, but I really believed in her opening the show — having an Israeli act open.”
Well-known pop singer Harel Skaat — whose husband is Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll — also performed at the show, singing a Hebrew, Arabic and English-language cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with Valerie Hamaty, a Christian Arab Israeli singer who became famous on this year’s season of Israel’s “Rising Star,” and religious Jewish Israeli performer Narkis.
With the Omicron COVID variant shutting down air travel and limiting entry into Israel, the local audience was thin, with the 4,000-seat hall more than half empty by the end of the show. Sandhu told reporters following her win that her family was unable to be with her at the competition due to the restrictions.
And a considerable portion of the audience was made up of fans from the Philippines — who …….