EXCLUSIVE: Catching Up With Catriona Gray About Her New Song, Big Life Lessons, And Fresh Realizations
The beauty queen and Metro cover girl joins us on Kumu's FYE Channel for an exclusive Metro Chats interview!
Metro.Style catches up with Miss Universe 2018 and Metro cover girl Catriona Gray as she goes back home to Australia and takes a quick break from life in the limelight.
The beauty queen is back in her other home to spend quality time with her mom and her dad—something she's been aching to do for at least a year now after being separated from her parents due to the pandemic.
As she enjoys Western Australia's cooler temperatures this time of the year, she talks to us about all the things she's had on her mind lately: her new song "R.Y.F" and its timely release, the responsibility that rests on her shoulders as her social media presence and digital influence grows, plus what it means to her to celebrate Pinoy Pride during Philippine Independence Day this June.
See highlights from our exclusive Metro Chats interview with Catriona Gray below!
Where she's currently at
Catriona is back in Australia! She hasn't seen her mom and her dad for 18 months or so, and is catching up with them only now.
"It was quite a challenging task to get here, with flights constantly have to reschedule and canceled flights... But it was all worth it. I'm an only child so being away from my parents was really difficult," she says, while adding that it was so good to see her dad in good shape after he underwent two surgeries last year.
What she does with her social media
In the same week, Catriona hit 12 million followers on Instagram and seven million on Facebook.
"I don't know more than a thousand people personally," she laughs. "It goes to show just how much responsibility that I have to put out material on my platforms that's able to contribute in some way to my audience. That's why I really love using visual tools... to showcase our culture," she adds.
It's why you'll often find this beauty queen promoting things like Philippine fashion (as in, pieces made from indigenous materials and often by indigenous groups), bits and pieces of our history, compassion for our underserved kababayans, and a genuine desire to learn more about what it means to say that one is proudly Filipino.
Speaking of fashion, everyone still remembers how Catriona specifically chose distinctly Filipino garments and styles to bring with her as she competed overseas for Miss Universe. It was one way she wanted to stand out as a representative of Filipinos and not just as a candidate working towards her own success.
"The thing that gives me a sense of joy and also in sharing it is the story behind the textile or behind the silhouette or behind the origin of the design... Fashion is beautiful to look at but what I feel gives it appreciation is knowing the tradition behind the technique, how it's been passed down generation to generation, the way that it's created, maybe the pattern it represents, or those people who created it, or what is its symbolism," she continues.
What "R.Y.F" (Raise Your Flag) is to her
It's a personal anthem of hers and a culmination of all the things she's said and come to believe in during, and after, her Miss Universe journey.
"The lyrics are really about taking action for someone else. It's not to say that you're taking away their power. You're making them realize they have power. You're standing up for them. You're advocating for them... 'R.Y.F' for me is really a call to action. It's a call for action," she explains.
It goes beyond nationalism, too, despite it having clearly Filipino pride messaging. It's certainly not a literal interpretation of raising a flag and being a patriot, but it can be taken as motivation to raise your voice no matter what it is you choose to stand up for or who you choose to fight alongside for.
Two weeks after releasing the song's lyric video, it's gotten over 400,000 views. KZ Tandingan and Kritiko have also done their own rendition of the song, which made it extra challenging for Catriona as she wanted to match their amazing version.
Catriona's take on the song has been in the works since the first quarter of 2020, so she's incredibly happy to finally come out with it at a time when Filipinos might need a boost of encouragement after so many things have transpired since the pandemic began.
"It was a wonderful experience because I was really given the opportunity to put my heart into a lyric that was really inspired by things that I said," she shares.
What it's like to be a Filipino with global exposure
Globalization, overseas Filipino workers, and the ease of travel (at least, before COVID) have allowed global Filipinos like Catriona to earn their place among international audiences.
The general impression people have of Filipinos is one she can be proud of; aside from loving our beaches and other travel destinations, she says that we've generally given the impression that we have respectful, likeable, and accommodating people.
"I never really had to defend my country from misconceptions of a bad attitude or a bad trait... That's saying a lot because I met so many people in my reign as a Miss Universe," she says.
What progress she's made on her book
Catriona has been working on a book since 2020.
"Originally, the book was about my life lessons going through Miss Universe, and then being a reigning queen," she points out.
"I'm an only child and I never really had an older sibling that I could rally or look up to for advice. I wish I could have had someone to pass down that advice, or [those] life lessons to me when I was navigating the world as an adult. That's what I envisioned the book to be," she smiles.
And then the pandemic happened, and even more life lessons were learned. It's why she put off the release of her book, so that it could include all that's been revealed to her during the past year.
What her take on mental health is
Even with her successes, she hasn't been immune to things that take a toll on her mental well-being.
She's not a stranger to online bullying, body shaming, and misconceptions about who she was as a person. But these days, the pandemic is testing her in new ways, and like most people from all around the world, she too has experienced bouts of anxiety from current events and how much the world is struggling to stay on its feet.
"When it comes to mental health issues, I feel like the pandemic has been instrumental in bringing that conversation to the forefront. And having that conversation is one that I feel is incredibly beneficial to so many people, especially in the Philippines. We have so much work to do in erasing the stigma," she tells us.
Small gestures can't be taken for granted. Asking how someone is doing or on the flipside, reaching out and learning about resources available for anyone dealing with mental health issues have become so critical for so many Filipinos at this time.
Her advice for everyone in terms of caring for mental health? Learn the right language to use when talking with someone dealing with a problem, validate their experiences, and don't shut them down. We also have to keep educating ourselves on how to be better allies to those fighting silent battles.
"Be the person that they need," she says.
What she'd like if there were to be a biopic about her
She jokes that she probably won't be around long enough to see a biopic made about her life should there ever be one, but if she could have a say in the project, she'd pick 18-year-old singer and our latest cover star Jayda Avanzado to portray her. It's almost like passing the crown from one Metro cover girl to another.
What she's most grateful for
"My family, My heart goes out so much to all of the OFWs, all of the families that have been separated because of this pandemic... It's so heartbreaking," she says.
"I think a lot of people can agree with me that one of the realizations from this pandemic is that family and relationships are so important. Me, as an only child—my dad is now 76 years old—my fear is that something might happen to him. And I just didn't want to have that regret, that I should have spent more time with my dad, with my family," she ends.
Watch Catriona Gray's full Metro Chats exclusive interview below!
Photos from @catriona_gray