US TV presenter Steve Harvey is has found himself in hot water after embarrassing a Miss Universe contestant.
The former comedian and self-help book author ordered Harnaaz Sandhu, the 21-year-old Indian contender who went on to win the competition, to meow like a cat – leading some Twitter users to describe Harvey as “inappropriate” and “culturally insensitive”.
Women’s rights campaigner Sandhu had written on her application that she was good at making “animal noises”.
So the Family Feud host unexpectedly sprung a surprise question on her during an interview segment: “I hear you do some pretty good animal impersonations. Let’s hear your best one.”
A visibly uncomfortable Sandhu replied: “Oh my god, Steve, I was not expecting to do this on the world stage.”
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But then she gathered herself and said: “I have to do this, I have no other option,” before letting out a few spirited meowing sounds.
Quite a few commenters on social media thought that Harvey had treated the young woman from northern India unfairly, especially as she has many other notable – and less silly – achievements.
She’s a respected advocate for women’s rights and empowerment in her home country, where she works closely with her mother on a campaign to educate women about health and hygiene.
Miss Panama, Brenda Smith, and Miss Great Britain Emma Collingridge were given the opportunity to talk about their work for women’s groups, but Sandhu was left making silly animal noises.
One unimpressed viewer, Sarakshi Rai, commented: “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 added: “On another note, I’m tired of Steve Harvey. Miss Universe couldn’t find another host that’s not culturally insensitive? Lol.”
Another Twitter user, Resa B, wrote: “Da f*** wrong with Steve Harvey, y’all?!?!?!! I think it’s his time to retire. NOW. This was completely inappropriate.”
However, some people thought Sandhu’s response to the left-field question had helped her to victory.
“Put on the spot, she could’ve declined or gone for it with good humour,” wrote Kristina Rowe.
“She chose the latter, and it was the right choice. I happen to think the winning moment was the judges’ question round when she said of climate change – ‘Better to prevent and prepare than repent and repair’.”