Art & Entertainment

Miss Diva Universe 2022 Divita Rai Reacts On Harnaaz Sandhu Facing 'Bullying' For Weight Gain: 'We Still Try To Fit Women...'

Harnaaz, who was crowned Miss Universe at an event in Israel in December last year, was touring India earlier this year when comments about her changed appearance started surfacing on social media

Divita Rai with Harnaaz Sandhu

Karnataka's Divita Rai, 24, was crowned the Miss Diva Universe 2022 by Harnaaz Sandhu, the reigning Miss Universe, in a gala ceremony recently. Harnaaz made India proud with her big win in 2021 and broke the country's dry spell at the Miss Universe contest but she later had to face 'unexpected bullying' and social media trolls for her weight gain after winning the crown.

So does this mean that beauty pageant winners are still considered to have a certain size in India? We asked Divita the same question, and she says, “This is the unfortunate truth, we still try to fit women into a narrow frame of beauty instead of celebrating women as they are for who they are. So much so, that the shape of her body has more precedence than her accomplishments. That is why it’s so important for all of us to continue breaking the illogical stereotypes on beauty and have these conversations to push the boundaries on what women of the 21st century should look like.”

Harnaaz, who was crowned Miss Universe at an event in Israel in December last year, was touring India earlier this year when comments about her changed appearance started surfacing on social media. She broke her silence on these comments in April and revealed that she has also been diagnosed with celiac disease due to which she can't eat wheat flour and many other things.

Divita, who will now represent India at the Miss Universe 2023, is a model and architect born in Mangalore. She says that her grandma and mom are the reason why she is a beauty queen today.

“My grandmom and mom dressed me up as Little Miss India for a fancy dress competition when I was all 3; this was at the peak of the beauty pageant era and this sparked my interest and curiosity towards beauty pageants! We watched the shows annually at home and it would inspire me to exude the same confidence and grace in front of billions as Miss India. I’m blessed to have supportive parents who despite having a conservative upbringing allowed both my brother and I to explore and discover our unique passions,” she says.

 The graduate from the University of Mumbai attributes it completely to the craftsmanship and architectural marvels of India she witnessed while growing up in different parts of the country. She sought to bring the same sense of joy and awe to people’s hearts and minds which led her to assist as a set and production designer for a big banner Bollywood film slated to release next year.

“My father worked in Indian Oil, due to which we got the chance to live in and travel to different cities across the country. It’s given me a sense of adaptability which is necessary to thrive in any situation and made me more appreciative of people's differences, and their diversity. Constant moving also forced me to derive my self-worth and confidence not from my environment but from my capacity to learn and grow,” she says.

Her future plans include exploring the profession of set design. “I got an opportunity a few months ago to assist on a project - a Bollywood film slated to release in the coming year. The experience gave me a great appreciation for the amount of hard work and effort that goes into making a 2-hour film. I don’t have any plans of acting just as yet but am definitely open to any opportunity that comes my way,” says Divita who loves Ranveer Singh for his charisma, energy, and passion to grow as a performer and actor, and admires his dedication to his craft and choices for the versatility that his characters have projected.

She also admires Deepika Padukone who is an active advocate of mental health and whose hard work shines through in her performance. Divita loves Jasmeet K Reen for her direction in the movie Darlings and is in awe of the portrayal of domestic violence via the storyline.

Now that she is a popular face, is she excited to lose her independence of being free most of the time? “I’ve been working towards this goal for so long that I’m okay with the price that I might have to pay to live this dream. It comes with the job and I’m excited to discover what this journey has in store for me,” says the new beauty queen.

And what’s the plan for the big day now?

“To be as present as I can, it’s something I’ve been dreaming and working towards for a very long time so to enjoy the D-day and have fun after all the prep,” she sums up adding that she wants to continue advocating for educational equity, especially working towards empowering the girl child to choose her own destiny.