Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu got candid about being bullied online after gaining weight.
As she told People in an Aug. 4 interview, "I definitely broke down so many times."
The 2021 Miss Universe winner shared that although she personally doesn't mind her weight fluctuation since winning back in December, the harassment she's received online has been difficult to come to terms with.
"Physically I have kind of grown, got more pounds and increased my weight, which I am totally comfortable about right now," the 22-year-old said. "I was bullied for gaining weight."
Harnaaz said that the reaction she received after her weight gain was jarring. "It was kind of uncomfortable and really surprising for me to see how people started having their opinions, which should not really matter," she explained. "It's not about how you look, it's about who you are from inside and how you treat people and what you believe in."
As the competition date got closer back in 2021, the model prioritized her diet and exercise in an effort to take home the crown.
"I was really focused towards my goal and I was [not] thinking about my health," she admitted. "The whole time we were working out, doing so many activities, and just after winning, I had almost a month just to relax."
Once the beauty pageant was over, she made different lifestyle choices that didn't focus on the heavy workout sessions she previously did.
"During that time, I actually didn't work out, and I was just eating and just enjoying that time with my family," Harnaaz said. "I never realized that it would start showing on my body."
When the Miss Universe winner noticed that people online has some unkind words about her body, it had a negative effect on her mental health.
Admitted to People that she had broken down many times, she shared it would sometimes occur "in the most unexpected times." "I'm just about to go on stage or something and this whole thing comes in my mind," Harnaaz said. "It's really sad."
Now, her mindset has shifted as she learned to accept that "it's okay to cry" and "feel sad." Moving forward, she's hoping her story will inspire others to take back control of their body image and embrace self-love.
"We all are imperfect," Harnaaz told the outlet. "We need to realize that there's a point where we understand that we need to embrace our flaws and when you do that, you can conquer anything in this world."