Steve Harvey is facing criticism for asking Miss Universe winner Harnaaz Sandhu from India to do an animal impersonation on stage instead of discussing her accomplishments.
Addressing the 21-year-old contestant from the north Indian city of Chandigarh, Harvey said: “I hear you do some pretty good animal impersonations. Let’s hear your best one.”
“Oh my god, Steve, I was not expecting to do this on the world stage,” Sandhu replied, looking visibly shocked, before adding: “I have to do this, I have no other option.”
Bracing members of the audience (and possibly herself) for what was to come, Sandhu then managed a couple of loud “meow”s before Harvey continued asking other finalists about their accolades — including Miss Panama Brenda Smith’s role with the United Nations and Miss Great Britain Emma Collingridge’s fight against gender-based violence.
This, despite the fact that Sandhu is a staunch advocate for women’s rights and empowerment in India, working with her gynaecologist mother to spread awareness about women’s hygiene at health camps.
An actor by profession, Sandhu has starred in Punjabi-language films and is currently enrolled for a Masters degree in public administration.
Many on social media took offence to the Family Feud host’s request, deeming it “culturally insensitive” and “completely inappropriate”.
The Hill’s social media deputy editor Sarakshi Rai tweeted: “OMG Miss India meowing at Steve Harvey is not what I was expecting to see tonight. Pretty sure the Miss Universe organisation could have asked a better question… very frustrating but she was nothing if not confident.”
Twitter user @ysasantiago wrote: “On another note, I’m tired of Steve Harvey. Miss Universe couldn’t find another host that’s not culturally insensitive? Lol.”
Harvey, who has hosted Miss Universe multiple times in the past, also drew flak for confusing Paraguay and Portugal while announcing the two finalists.
Twitter users recalled the 2015 edition of the competition when Harvey crowned first runner-up Miss Colombia the winner, instead of Miss Philippines.
“Is it just me or is Steve Harvey continually inappropriate and continues to make embarrassing gaffes. Asking Miss India to make cat sounds, then (again) mixing up country names – this time calling Miss Paraguay, Miss Portugal. I think he should move on,” Twitter user @antho888 posted online.
Another user said: “He makes fun of contestants. He makes awful jokes. Please get someone new.”
The annual beauty pageant was hosted in Eilat, Israel, on 12 December (Sunday).
Sandhu is now the third Indian woman to win the prestigious competition, after Indian actors Lara Dutta (2000) and Sushmita Sen (1994).
The other two finalists at Miss Universe 2021 were Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira and Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane.