Despite a journey full of roadblocks, the 70th annual Miss Universe pageant’s host Steve Harvey declared Miss India, Harnaaz Sandhu, a winner amidst the 80 other competitors. The competition, which requires participants to be unmarried, and is judged in swimsuits, was tagged as outdated by many; however, it also allowed millions of global viewers a perspective inside Israel that is not typically seen on the news.
While the BDS movement tried and failed to get contestants to boycott, the group of pageant women spent time beforehand traveling the country, capturing the gorgeous views from Jerusalem to Eilat to the Dead Sea, savoring the delicious food, and speaking of the warmth, friendliness, and unique connection in Israel that cannot be felt through any media headline.
Coronavirus also almost got in the way of the competition, with authorities closing down the borders to non-Israeli travelers prior to the contest. However, given the $30 million budget from the State to subsidize the contest, participants received swift approval to land in Israel, with the need to quarantine and receive negative COVID-19 tests to ensure collective safety.
While Miss Universe was a success in terms of inviting a new generation to view the often unseen sides of Israel, the general public disinterest of the outdated beauty pageant rituals seems to solidify that the days of judging women based on beauty alone, at least on a televised stage, is over.
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