The winner of the Miss Universe crown after politics began to enter the contest – The Hollywood Reporter

India’s Harnaaz Sandhu was crowned Miss Universe for the 70th time on Sunday, topping the field of about 80 contestants in a contest that has ties to politics and the pandemic.

The previous reigning Miss Universe, Andrea Meza of Mexico, crowned her successor, a Bollywood actress, in the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat. The contest is held at midnight, ending at 5 a.m. local time (10 p.m. EST) to accommodate prime time schedules in the US

The competition included performances of national costumes, traditional swimsuits and a series of interview questions to test the contestants’ public speaking skills. The top 10 showcased intricately designed knee-length gowns in gold, silver or bronze. Beatrice Luigi Gomez of the Philippines wore an asymmetrical cut dress with one sleeve, highlighting a new tattoo she said was “celebrating her womanhood”.

But the contest has also drawn attention in recent weeks for other reasons.

A Palestinian-led boycott has urged contestants to skip the event to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

In the end, only Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country with close ties to the Palestinians, did not send a representative, citing the global COVID-19 situation. The South African government, which also strongly supports the Palestinian cause, withdrew its support for the country’s representative for her participation.

In an interview last month, Meza urged contestants to leave politics out of the contest, saying the meeting was meant to bring together women from diverse backgrounds. “When you’re in there, you forget about your politics, about your religion,” she told the Associated Press at the time.

Sara Salansky, an official with Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, said the country was chosen to host the contest earlier this year because of Israel’s successful coronavirus vaccination program.

The contest suffered a last-minute glitch with the appearance of the omicron variant, forcing Israel to close its borders to foreign tourists late last month.

Most of the Miss Universe contestants were already in the country before the new rules took effect. But latecomers are given special permission to enter, despite a mandatory 72-hour quarantine period.

During the competition from before to Sunday, all contestants are tested for coronavirus every 48 hours and are required to follow strict mask requirements.

Amid all safeguards, French contestant Clemence Botino tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after arriving in Israel. After 10 days in quarantine, she was declared virus-free last week and allowed to re-enter the competition.

Last year’s contest was delayed due to the pandemic before Meza was crowned in May for her short term.

Sunday’s contest was hosted by US television personality Steve Harvey. Organizers say the contest is expected to reach an estimated 600 million viewers via the Fox network in 172 countries.

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