By Pauline Songco
Photo by Yummie Dingding
I think it’s just really a big mind-opener, being able to interact and be friends with all of the girls around the world. I’m just excited to represent the Philippines, to be the best that I can.
Catriona Gray is all set to represent the Philippines at the world stage. The 25-year-old beauty may not have won Miss World 2016, yet she decided to continue carrying the torch high, this time for Miss Universe 2018.
Born to an Australian father and a Filipino mother, Catriona spent most of her childhood engaged in various extracurricular activities. She was a former student of Trinity Anglican School in Cairns, Australia and Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Gray was also a singer of her school’s jazz band and played parts for local productions of Miss Saigon as well. Adding to that list of achievements, Catriona will be the first guest editor of ABS-CBN Lifestyle for its “Inspiring Stellar Stories” series.
“I’m honored and excited. Out of all the people in the industry and the public figures, they chose me. It was unexpected, but it’s an experience being able to share the things that people might not know,” she tells Daily Tribune in an interview.
Catriona will help curate ABS-CBN Lifestyle’s site contents on fashion, food, health, travel, pop culture, tech and all other inspiring and relevant stories that can help guide Filipinas to live their best life.
Straight from the heart
As the first celebrity guest editor for a month, Catriona had the opportunity to write articles on her life story, her journey to being a beauty queen and her chosen advocacies.
“It’s more of a ‘getting to know me’ theme. The first piece is about being a beauty like my road to Miss Universe. At one point I talked about breaking the barrier — that I am just a person, too, I just happen to have a title. I want the people to be able to relate to me. I am pursuing this dream that doesn’t make it any different,” she said.
In all of the pieces she prepared, Catriona wants the readers to have a takeaway — something that they can learn from and apply later on to their life and their own journey.
“My second piece is redefining what beauty queens are. Even me, before, I didn’t realize that beauty queens could be so influential. They have much of a job. But I realized the platform that they have, the influence that they have. Being a beauty queen speaks because a lot of people are listening so I wanted to articulate that shift.”
Catriona is an only child and that’s where she drew inspiration for her third article. “My third piece is about the lessons that I would teach my younger self. I’m an only child so having an older sibling, you know, there’s this guidance that your parents can’t give you that your sibling might have. I wrote that piece as if I am the older sibling for my younger self. Just the things that I wish I knew in life that could have possibly guided me.”
One of the points Catriona tries to emphasize for readers is the spirit of togetherness, which she believes makes a big difference.
“I want to empower people that they can go out there and find an organization that they like. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small thing or a big thing — you can contribute even with your time. It all makes a difference. Everyone should do it. Imagine if all people had an advocacy or a cause that they have to give back to the community; that would be amazing.”
Road to the Universe
Demi Leigh Nel-Peters is set to crown her successor as the Miss Universe competition will be held in Thailand on 17 December. Further into the interview with Daily Tribune, Catriona shared that all of her preparations for the competition are well underway.
“We’re finalizing my wardrobe. I want the gowns and national costumes to be ready. I already talked to my designers. It’s still a secret because it’s more fun when no one really has an idea. But more than that, it’s all about putting your best foot forward and feeling as prepared as you can. There’s no level of perfection to reach; just be the best that I can be,” she said.
Above all, Catriona is excited to meet the other contestants. “The friendships you make in the pageantry is really different. Why? Because you see each other at a high pressure and usually those are the best situations to see how a person is.”
Learning from studying past Miss Universe editions, Catriona perceived that it’s not all about beauty. The competition comes down to a person’s character and your ability as a spokesperson.
“I think it’s just really a big mind-opener, being able to interact and be friends with all of the girls around the world. I’m just excited to represent the Philippines, to be the best that I can.”
Catriona has chosen two organizations to work with. Young Focus is an education -based organization located in Tondo, Manila. They provide school sponsorships and education especially to the children living in the Smokey Mountain area. The other charity is Love Yourself, a volunteer-run organization that helps educate people who have HIV.
“I have the pleasure of being their spokesperson for a year and a half now. I’ve seen firsthand how they work for the lives that they’ve changed. It’s such a timely cause because there has been a 40 percent increase in the rate of HIV cases in the Philippines compared to our Southeast Asian neighbors who are decreasing their rates. If we let it go unattended for so long, it will have a ripple effect and the cases will just multiply and multiply,” she added.
Catriona hopes to win the country’s fourth Miss Universe crown in December. Catch more inspiring stories on ABS-CBN Lifestyle at Lifestyle.ABS-CBN.com, facebook.com/abscbnlifestyle, Instagram @abscbnlifestyle and twittercom/abscbnlifestyle.