It’s been a few weeks since the meow heard ‘round the world. That is, since the 2021 Miss Universe pageant, hosted by none other than Steve Harvey. This year’s events went viral, and not for Harvey's fashion sense this time. In fact, it went viral after the Family Feud host asked then-Miss India contestant Harnaaz Sandhu to make cat noises. There was backlash following the incident, and now a former Miss Universe winner is speaking out about why the moment even happened onstage
Lara Dutta, who represented India in the 2000 Miss Universe pageant (and who was the last contestant from her country to win her pageant prior to the most recent event), recently explained that while people might have been up in arms about Steve Harvey asking Harnaaz Sandhu such a seemingly silly question, the reason he did so actually makes a lot of sense.
Per Dutta, when a contestant chooses to participate in the Miss Universe pageant, they actually fill out a multi-page questionnaire about their interests. This paperwork can be as long as 15 pages! The former Miss Universe told Pinkvilla more about what the pageant is looking for before also defending Steve Harvey, noting,
One of the big complaints made after Harnaaz Sandhu did her best impression of a cat – an impression that was honestly really pretty spot-on– was that some of the other contestants were asked serious questions while the contestant from India was asked to mimic a cat. At face value, it’s easy to see how there might be outrage that followed, but Lara Dutta’s comments on the matter gel more with what Sandhu herself actually said after the moment went viral. If you somehow missed the moment, you can see it play out in full, below.
This year’s Miss Universe winner did not seem to sweat the question from Steve Harvey, either. She actually previously noted she was “having so much fun” and just trying to “enjoy” herself while on such a major stage, even after she was asked to do an animal impression. So, while fans watching from the comfort of their homes may not have been happy, she didn’t seem to be sweating it.
The moment may have gone viral, but former Miss Universe Lara Dutta also says she feels Harnaaz Sandhu represented India well in the moment. She went with the flow and it’s easy to see how she later won the pageant event.
Part of the reason Steve Harvey may have not been given the benefit of the doubt here is because he has been known to flub at these live events before. Harvey once announced the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant and made a similar mistake during a second event. The man’s a consummate professional, but there’s a component to live events that is very different from taping an episode of a game show (though Feud has had its own bizarre moments).
Harvey himself has not spoken out about the meow backlash. At this point, both the lady involved and her predecessor have tried to clarify what happened, and we'll have to wait and see if he follows suit.
Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.
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