Eleven years later, the 24-year-old Filipino-Australian beauty was the one in tears as she waved to the crowd wearing the coveted Miss Universe crown. She’s donned a show-stopping red and orange dress, inspired by Mount Mayon, a perfectly coned volcano found in her mother’s home province of Albay.
Born in Cairns, Australia, Catriona is an only child. Her father Ian Gray is Scottish and her mother Normita Magnayon is Filipino, a native of Oas, Albay.
Catriona first joined and won a beauty pageant, Little Miss Philippines, at age 5. When she was 16, she shot her first commercial.
Catriona has a master’s certificate in Music Theory from Berklee College of Music in Boston.
After high school, at the age of 18, Gray moved from Australia to Manila to start a modeling career, paying for her plane ticket with her earnings.
“I was both scared and excited to embark on that journey. I did not have the proper tools yet but I was excited to start making small steps,” Catriona told Manila Standard in an interview in July when she revealed her extensive training for Miss Universe.“I live by my father’s word of wisdom which is, ‘The longest journey ]begins with a single step,’” she said.
Catriona’s pageant journey started in 2016 when she became Miss World Philippines and represented the country at the annual Miss World pageant. She finished in the top five of the beauty tilt that year, which was ultimately won by Puerto Rico’s Stephanie del Valle.
“The crown represented a journey… until I realized that the journey could continue and exist without it. I truly believe that God always knows what’s best and I trust in his plan and perfect timing,” Catriona said after failing to win the Miss World crown.
Before joining her first national pageant, she started her own charity project called Paraiso: The Bright Beginnings Project, which aims to raise funds for a preschool in Tondo, Manila’s Smokey Mountain. She also supports the Love Yourself PH project, which advocates HIV/AIDS awareness, and volunteers as a teacher’s assistant to the students of Young Focus NGO.
Her charitable endeavors were the inspiration for her answer to the final question in the Q&A round when she was asked: “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life and how would you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?’
Catriona underscored that working in a Manila slum had taught her to find beauty in difficult situations.
Her journey to the crown was not without criticism and online bashing. Trolls labeled her as “not Filipino enough” to represent the country. But the harsh comments and criticisms did not faze her.
Instead, she proved that her being Filipino goes beyond her looks and skin color.
During the national costume show presentation, Catriona showcased a beaded tribal suit featuring the indigenous tribes of the ancient pagan Filipinos, alongside an over-sized Parol painted Christmas lantern pulled by a roller device. The costume was accompanied by a pre-Christian Shamanic dance of the historical Babaylan paganism.
At the same time, Catriona’s YouTube channel unveiled three videos that chronicle her journey from Pampanga to Leyte and to South of Mindanao to come up with a national costume that would represent “the entire Philippines.”
“I’m human first, beauty queen second. No one has perfect statistics. It really is just about empowering yourself and finding your own worth within yourself. I have mental fortitude. We are bombarded with so many different things whether it’d be from online or people around you that you need to have security around yourself,” she said.
Having focus and mental fortitude are important when one is involved in pageantry, she said.
She proudly promotes her advocacy, education.
READ: It’s ‘all or nothing’ for Catriona Gray
“I guess I have my advocacy and I think that has grounded me. I didn’t have an advocacy just for the pageant, I’ve had it for three years [and] just having that thing to ground me and to humble me throughout the whole experience I think is a wonderful edge to have, “ she said.
Catriona is the fourth Filipina to win the coveted Miss Universe crown after Gloria Diaz in 1969, Margie Moran in 1973 and Pia Wurtzbach in 2015.
She’s the second Miss World finalist to crossover to Miss Universe and ultimately win the crown. Namibia’s Michelle McLean finished one of the Top 5 finalists in the Miss World pageant in 1991. In 1992, McLean represented her country in Miss Universe in Bangkok, Thailand and won the crown that year.
Wurtzbach shared a photo of the newly crowned Catriona on Instagram, writing: “This girl is on fire! You started strong and captured our hearts with your grace, commitment, and fearlessness! And that walk… how could anyone forget that walk?”
“Congratulations, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray! You have made us all proud! Raise your flag!” she said.
READ: Miss Universe Catriona Gray a social media star
Diaz told ABS-CBN Catriona was “gorgeous and outstanding from the start, while Moran said she “was outstanding in her walk and performance in the question and answer.”
The Miss World organization also congratulated Catriona for becoming Miss Universe 2018 on Monday.
The pageant organization posted a photo of Catriona’s crowning moment on their Facebook page and expressed their well wishes to the new queen.
“Well done Catriona! Congratulations from all of us at Miss World to Catriona Gray on being elected Miss Universe 2018!!”
Miss World also mentioned Catriona’s achievements in her Miss World journey in 2016 where she finished as one of the Top 5.
READ: Gray’s ‘slo-mo twirl’ wows netizensREAD: Catriona Gray’s fearless forecast
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