CATRIONA GRAY became the fourth Filipina to win the Miss Universe crown as she was adjudged Miss Universe 2018 during the pageant’s coronation night on Dec. 17 in Bangkok, Thailand
As the new Miss Universe, Ms. Gray joins Gloria Diaz, Margie Moran, and Pia Wurtzbach, who held the title in 1969, 1973, and 2015, respectively.
The 24-year-old Filipino-Australian beauty queen beat Tamaryn Green of South Africa and Sthefany Gutiérrez of Venezuela who were named first and second runner-up, respectively, in a pageant that included a transgender contestant for the first time in the 66-year-old pageant— Miss Spain Angela Ponce, 27.
“My heart is filled with so much gratitude. There were moments of doubt where I felt overwhelmed and I felt the pressure,” said Ms. Gray,
Ms. Gray previously competed in the Miss World 2016 pageant where she finished in the Top 5.
In January this year, Ms. Gray joined the Binibining Pilipinas pageant where she bagged the crown for Miss Universe Philippines 2018 on March 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
During the days leading to the final night of the pageant, Ms. Gray graced the stage with a costume adorned with indigenous tribe patterns while pulling a giant Christmas lantern behind her in the National Costume section, and her slow-motion twirl in a hot pink swimsuit during the preliminary Swimsuit competition became a hit on social media.
As a contender for the Top 5, Ms. Gray was asked about her opinion on the legalization of marijuana.
She replied, “I’m for being used in medical use but not so for recreational use. Because I think if people were to argue, ‘What about alcohol and cigarettes?’ So everything is good but in moderation.”
After she was crowned, Ms. Gray told reporters the question was “definitely relevant” and “an active topic,” in an apparent reference to the war on drugs in the Philippines that has killed thousands of Filipinos and caused international alarm.
Moments before the crowning of the new Miss Universe, Ms. Gray advanced to the Top 3.
For the final question and answer portion, the contestants were 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?”
Dressed in a flaming red Mayon volcano-inspired evening gown by Capampangan designer Mark Tumang, Ms. Grey answered, “I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is very… it’s poor and it’s very sad and I always taught myself to look for the beauty in it, to look in the beauty of the faces of the children, and to be grateful and I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe — to see situations with a silver lining and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. If I could teach also people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their face.”
Congratulations quickly poured in for the TV host, singer, model, stage actress, and beauty queen.
Fellow Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach posted this on Instagram: “This girl is on fire! You started strong and captured our hearts with your grace, commitment and fearlessnes! And that walk… how could anyone forget that walk? Now, you’ve conquered the Universe! This is just the beginning. Congratulations, Miss Universe 2018 @catriona_gray! You have made us all proud! Raise your flag!”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo released a statement of congratulations from the Palace for her win.
“Ms. Gray truly made the entire Philippines proud when she sashayed on the global stage and showcased the genuine qualities defining a Filipina beauty: confidence, grace, intelligence and strength in the face of tough challenges. In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work. ”
Meanwhile, Vice-President Leonor G. Robredo made reference to their mutual roots in the Bicol Region — Ms. Robredo hails from Camarines Sur while Ms. Gray’s mother is from Albay — in her congratulatory note, saying “Mabuhay ang mga Bicolana!”
The vice-president focused on unity and inspiration in her note. “Your victory has brought happiness to millions of households throughout our nation. Regardless of different backgrounds and allegiances, in this, you have brought us together,” said Ms. Robredo. “With the eyes of the world and the entire Filipino nation on you, you chose to highlight your work with the poor, and to send a much-needed message of hope to all. With those inspiring words, you already became a winner in my heart, and, I am certain, in those of many others.”
Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aguirre Aquino IV released a statement that said “Thank you for showing the world that Filipino beauty is intelligent, creative and full of heart.”
Senator Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares said that “A woman of style, substance and brave heart deserves the crown…The Filipinos will be by your side in your Miss Universe journey.” — Michelle Anne P. Soliman with Reuters