Fascinating Women 2022: Catriona Gray
From stunning gowns to regional looks and now big global brands, Catriona Gray is having her fashion momen
Catriona Gray has truly come a long way from her modelling days. She had been a familiar face in fashion editorials of top Philippine magazines while venturing out into memorable TV commercials as she was starting out. After bagging the esteemed Miss Universe 2018 title, she’s still on the same fashion magazines but now fronting her own covers. She’s still on your television screens but now as a top endorser for these brands. Her journey might have started years ago but she’s still the same woman—and her fashion moment is now.
Catriona’s road to the crown was filled with and bannered by Filipino designers. Her iconic lava walk while decked in a molten red look by Pampanga-based designer Mak Tumang was proof on how a woman like Catriona can highlight talents where she’s from on such a global scale. This very moment was solidified with the recent launch of her Madam Tussauds wax figure in Singapore in the exact same look that catapulted her status to queen. She’s also the only Filipino to be included in the exhibit in Singapore.
Since 2018, her passion of highlighting the people and culture from every region in the Philippines hasn’t faltered. For three years, Catriona has been the ambassador for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. To celebrate this milestone and for the grand reveal of the new Philippine Metropolitan Theatre, her birthday shoot put the spotlight on this iconic structure and the Filipino designers she wore in it. This also came hand-in-hand with her #RaiseYourFlag series with the Department of Trade and Industry as she traverser through different provinces in the Philippines, shedding light to the arts, the products, and the people behind them. Throughout this experience, we see Catriona in weaves and fabrics handcrafted by designers and artisans from a country she’s truly proud to have come from.
And just this year, another fashion moment for Catriona is being the new ambassador of global brand H&M for their new swimwear line. In the campaign, her life’s advocacies still came through. Shot in Nueva Ecija, the campaign included the Talavera Artist’s Guild from the area where young artists painted on bags and hats that Catriona wore to the shoot. Again, another platform Catriona has been opening up for the Filipinos.
Catriona Gray is truly a fascinating woman. Being able to highlight the local talent and fashion wherever she is and in whatever she does, it truly speaks of not just an advocacy but of a life’s passion. Even outside of fashion, what she stands for is a woman capable of so much more: empowering communities, people, and nations. It may seem so simple, just putting on a dress from a starting up fashion designer, but if you come to think of it, that’s how she started year ago as a model and look at where she is now: still putting on these dresses and now changing the tides.
See excerpts from our exclusive full interview with Catriona Gray below!
Metro.Style: It’s been an experience generally with the pandemic and everything going on, what have you been up to lately and what keeps you busy?
Catriona Gray: I’m really blessed that 2022 has been really great for work. I recently just shot my H&M campaign as one of their newest ambassadors, which is really exciting because the campaign is a passion that blooms and I consider myself someone who is really directed in everything that I pursue with my passions, whether it be at advocacy, work, community work, or just creating in general and the realms of music and others. It's just something that I really resonate with. Aside from that, I'm gearing up for a few upcoming show where I'll be a resident host, and also other creative pursuits, like my music, etcetera.
M.S: Tell us all about your advocacies recently. We’ve been following your journey as a queen and now as a personality. What things about your advocacies mean the most to you?
CG: I’ve been able to do a few outreach missions with Smile Train as a global ambassador. That included Kenya and also in the Philippines. And I have a few other international trips up coming this year. And I really love working with them because just to hear the stories, and I've heard multiple already that it's not just the life of a child that's changed, but their whole community. And that's just really wonderful. I am also continuing my ambassadorship role with the NCCA as Culture and Arts ambassador, and also working alongside other groups to elevate local and small businessand individuals. [This is] in light of the pandemic to try and boost their businesses, especially focusing on Filipino, textile and Filipino-made products.
I know it sounds like a lot of different things, but I really do believe in empowering people to have the same equal opportunity. And that means for me, for them to have equal tools and resources, to be able to thrive and have a sustainable livelihood and to be able to provide for their loved ones. It’s really at the core of all the causes that I do.
M.S: How does it feel to wear all the creations of these amazing Filipino designers during your reign and even after? What are your favorite looks and who are you favorite Filipino designers?
CG: It makes me feel proud. I love being able to showcase Filipino talent and then even go on to tell it to people because the response that I get from wearing these beautiful textiles is really one of wonder and appreciation. I love being able to share that this is not just a beautiful cloth. It's something that has been passed down through traditions. It's a labor of skill and hard work, and I love being able to share that in a beautiful piece fashion. It draws the viewer in, but also has a story to tell.
M.S: A recent accolade of yours was your H&M endorsement. How does this feel and how does it feel to be recognized more and more as a woman in fashion?
CG: I’m so happy to be working with H&M. I love their sustainable approach to fashion, in terms of having even booths that you can give your old clothes to recycle, and their clothes being made with recycled materials. I think they’re really a leader in it, terms of fashion being more eco-friendly and just being more responsive to consumers.
I love the story behind this campaign. I feel like it's very me. Even from the pieces to the story about chasing after one's passions and the story that we were able to share.
M.S: What would you say has been your biggest struggle as a woman in your field? If not the biggest, at least the one that had the most impact in your life of late?
CG: I think what's difficult is the assumptions that people piece together. Yes, we live our lives online in a way. It’s the way that we've mainly communicated with our audiences and have really shown a window into our life as of late. And sometimes there's a huge possibility to be misconstrued or to have issues raised from really nothing.
And so the truth becomes twisted sometimes, or stories get thrown out there or rumors, and that can be quite difficult to navigate if you're really young. I've had a few bit of experience now being in the public eye for how many years but definitely the difficult part is how do you keep your authentic voice. Even though you've kept it for all this time, but how do you continue to allow people to get to know the real you, even though when the only window you're able to show that it through is through your social media, which isn't necessarily reality.
M.S: How were you able to overcome it?
CG: I always can always pursue projects that I feel are really aligned with who I am and what I believe in. And I feel like if people follow my journey from the very beginning, they'll see a common thread interwoven through everything that I do, whether it be through work projects or advocacy projects, or just things that I support or things I talk up about or speak up about.
I feel like there's a very common thread there. That is me, that's my identity. And I feel like I've been very consistent with that. So I hope that speaks to how I value authenticity and who I am.
M.S: What is your biggest advice to any woman in your field?
CG: There will always be people who try and limit you and tell you what you can and can't do, and try to fit you into a box. Sometimes that pressure can be really overwhelming, because it could come from people that you look up to or the workplace that you're in or the people around you. But I really just encourage you to just stay your course and continue to pursue the things that really set your soul on fire and the passions that you wanna pursue and be yourself. I feel like there's a unique calling on all of our lives and it's up to us to pursue it.
M.S: What are your future plans for yourself?
CG: I'm doing projects that I love being able to challenge myself and continue to grow, continue to learn, and be able to really push the limits on, on what I envision for myself and what I believe I can do personally.
M.S: How do you feel can women truly support other women today?
CG: It's all in the small moments, honestly. It's more than just a comment on social media. It's really opening up space within workplaces, standing up for someone when there is inequality being acted out or when someone's rights, aren't being protected. It's about actually going out there and doing something about it. And that can start from something that's a really small act of educating someone that you may be having a conversation with. But it also could just be if you are a legislation maker or if you're a leader in a workplace, creating environments that women can really thrive and have an equal opportunity to thrive. That's how we can make actual changes instead of just constantly talking about it, but not really making any real change happen.
Art by Raff Colmenar