The second time's the charm for Miss Diva Universe, Divita Rai. The architect competed at the pageant last year where Harnaaz Sandhu was crowned the winner. Sandhu went on to win the Miss Universe 2021 crown at the global competition.
But on Sunday night, Rai, 23, claimed her crown as Miss Diva Universe and will be India's representative at the Miss Universe competition, which be held later this year. A proud Sandhu was at hand to pass on the torch at a glittering ceremony, which also marked the 10th year of the pageant, held at Mumbai's Famous Studios.
Along with Rai, two other beauty queens were also crowned. Pragnya Ayyagari was declared Miss Diva Supranational 2022, and will represent her country at the next Miss Supranational; while Ojasvi Sharma was declared Miss Popular Choice 2022 in an audience-voted category.
Who is Miss Diva Universe Divita Rai?
An architect and model, Rai was born in the port city of Mangalore in the South Indian state of Karnataka. A resident of Mumbai, where she also studied architecture, she has a keen interest in badminton, basketball, painting, listening to music and reading.
The Miss Diva pageant was not Rai's first rodeo, having participated in the contest last year and placed second after current Miss Universe Sandhu. In 2019, Rai also participated in the Karnataka state competition for Femina Miss India, which sends India's representative to the Miss World pageant, and placed in the top three.
In an interview with The Times of India ahead of the pageant, Rai said she considers education to be one of the most powerful tools with which to change the world, and would work towards making it free for all.
"My father harnessed its power to break out of his financial circumstance and empower himself to earn and provide for his family," she said.
Standing 1.8 metres tall, Rai is already an established model, having walked at a number of fashion weeks across the country. Her biggest inspiration is Sushmita Sen, India's first Miss Universe in 1994 and now a Bollywood actress.
What is Miss Diva?
Miss Diva is a part of the Femina Miss India group that selects India's representatives for Miss Universe, one of the Big Four international beauty pageants. A separate Femina Miss India is also held to pick India's representative at the Miss World pageant.
Historically, the winner of Femina Miss India represented the country at Miss Universe while the second place title holder would compete at Miss World and the third place winner at Miss Asia Pacific. But the organisation has since undergone a number of changes, owing to licensing agreements.
The first Miss Diva, Manasi Moghe, was crowned in 2013.
Bollywood actress Lara Dutta Bhupathi, Miss Universe 2020, serves as one of the mentors on Miss Diva. She reunited with Sandhu on stage on Sunday, ahead of Rai's crowning.
Sandhu, who is from Chandigarh, made a grand entrance at the pageant, carried on to stage in an intricate float as Punjabi dancers performed. Dressed in a flowing gown by designer Gavin Miguel, Sandhu proudly wore her Miss Universe crown, which was made by Lebanese jeweller Mouawad.
The entire Miss Diva ceremony will be streamed on Voot on September 12.
The winner of Miss Universe 2022 is unlikely to be crowned until December — however, contestants are already lining up to compete.
More than 50 countries far and wide, from the UK to Ukraine and Guatemala to Ghana, have named their representatives, with plenty more to be unveiled over the coming months.
In the region, Miss Universe Bahrain will be named soon.
Scroll through the gallery for Miss Universe 2022 beauty queens crowned so far, from Iraq to Thailand