EXCLUSIVE: Everything About Catriona Gray Makes Us Believe She Is The Next Miss Universe
MISS UNIVERSE IN THE MAKING. • . #MissUniversePhilippines2018 #CatrionaGray (@catriona_gray) is extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to represent the country in the international pageant scene once again. Two years have passed since she was last in a pageant; now that she's older, more mature, and more confident, she's more than ready to conquer the universe. This beauty queen says, "If something's worth doing, it's worth doing well." . Produced by @gracelibero Photography by @rxandy Styling by @stylizedstudio Creative direction by @theonlychookiecruz Make-up: @mhoyvistan_mua Hairstyling: @jaymarlahaylahay Special thanks to Gines Enriquez, Ivan de Lara, Terry Dy of @cafeamazonph, and Stephen Capuchino Writer: @gracelibero Shoot assistant: James Mangile . Shot on location at @zoomburst . #BbPilipinas2018 #BbPilipinasonMetroStyle #Queens #wellstyledlife #lifestyled #lifegoals #inspiredliving @bbpilipinasofficial
On an interview with Boy Abunda on his late night talk show program, the King of Talk told the newly-crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2018 Catriona Gray: “You’re so beautiful. You’re Miss Universe. You’re such a nice person. My last question is this: What’s wrong with you?”
Catriona burst into laughter then mustered to reply with a lit-up face and a charming voice: “I have a lot of flaws naman.”
But Boy can’t seem to find any of that as he said, “You have to convince me.”
The seasoned TV host is not the only one who notices how seemingly perfect Catriona is. Seeing her onstage or on television and all the more being in her presence, it’s easy to be in awe of pretty much everything about her.
As cliché as it is, there is indeed no better description for her than beauty and brains.
Not your ordinary girl
Let’s start with her enviable physical attributes. She’s tall, her body is so covetable and ideal it deserved the Best in Swimsuit awards at the last Binibining Pilipinas pageant and Miss World Philippines in 2016, and on top of everything else, her face is simply stunning; her look is versatile that she can go from sweet to fierce in a snap.
If you are looking for depth in her character—the substance to match her beauty—you’re sure to find it. This unica hija may have grown up sheltered, but she is definitely not timid. Her parents, a Scottish-born Australian father and a Filipino mother who hails from Bicol, brought her up to be independent and strong enough to stand up for herself. She’s an only child, but she was far from being spoiled; naturally, of course, her parents made sure to help push her to her full potential.
“I got the undivided attention of my parents but I never really got handouts. I remember I had friends who would get rewards for getting good grades. I never got that (giggles),” Catriona shares. “But my mom would never let me be bored. She always put me into so many extra-curricular activities in school, like I did drama, karate, dance, singing, musical instruments, Math and Science extensions.” Her favorite subjects? “Math, English, and art.”
“Actually, I was a perfectionist. That’s my personality. It doesn’t control me as much as it used to growing up but I would really push myself academically,” Catriona adds.
Later on, she explored her talent in music. She became the lead vocalist of her school’s jazz band and even earned a Certificate in Music Theory from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She plays the guitar, too! “I listen to music 24/7,” she quips, sharing that songs by Dua Lipa, Yebba, Sam Smith, and Guy Sebastian as well as the tracks from The Greatest Showman soundtrack album are currently on her playlist.
This Choi Kwang Do martial art black belter also has a creative side, and dabbles in sketching and painting.
Catriona likes enriching her mind, too, and is quite a bookworm. “I love reading,” she says. She enjoys fiction more than non-fiction but also consumes the latter by downloading audio books. “I can’t read in traffic because I get dizzy,” she shares. “But sayang ang time.”
As proven by her very well said answer during the Binibining Pilipinas 2018 Q&A portion and her media interviews that followed thereafter, she is likewise articulate and can express herself eloquently.
With all these interests, talents, and achievements, the question that begs to be asked now is: “What can you not do?”
“I can’t do sports. I am very uncoordinated,” the beauty queen reveals.
Sports may not be her thing, but she’s got the discipline of an athlete, no doubt. And that, she was able to use in a different playing field: the real world.
Catriona was born in Cairns, Queensland in Australia, which is near the Great Barrier Reef. “When I look back [at my childhood], I really connect a lot with nature. I was always climbing trees. I was in the creek, in the ocean. Outdoorsy talaga ako,” she recounts. “I had a dog, a Rottweiler. She was like my sister. She would be my play buddy.”
While she enjoyed living with her parents, who she considers as her best friends, Catriona was also raring to experience the real world and stand up on her own feet. After high school, with her parents’ permission, she moved to the Philippines. As her mother is a Filipina, she would travel to the Philippines, particularly in Laguna, a lot. But the hectic lifestyle in Metro Manila was something that was out of the comfort zone of the then 18-year-old lady.
“It was really hard in the beginning also because I had come straight from my first heartbreak, my first love, combining that with having no family. Because my family here in the Philippines is in the province. No one was here in Metro Manila. I lived initially in a model apartment,” Catriona shares.
Catriona turned to modeling as a profession. It was a career she was confident taking on, considering her modeling experiences that started at a young age; that included small fashion show stints back in Australia, appearances on the cover of teen magazines and fashion and beauty editorials at 12, and her first-ever TVC for a coffee brand at 16.
“I started very early,” Catriona says. “By the time I moved here at 18, I didn’t feel like a super newbie. I felt like I had a little bit of experience under my belt. On the career aspect, it wasn’t a baptism of fire. I already kind of had my footing. It’s just the whole life situation, not necessarily the job, but just figuring out how to live along, how to find out who you are and what you are doing.”
Sure, modeling is fun and all, but at the end of the day, it’s a profession and money matters matter. “I was having a really difficult time in my life, when I was around 21 or 22. I was just under a lot of pressure. My parents had come to move here to the Philippines. I was the breadwinner, and that was pressure for me,” Catriona narrates.
“As a model, our work is sporadic. It’s not every month, I can expect this much and get this much in the bank. I remember I was just deeply unhappy at the time. I mean, I’m more than happy to provide for my parents because I saw how much they did for me, growing up. But to feel panicky, that feeling, like I should be able to provide for them and I can’t. I don’t have the means to. That was a very hard time for me.”
To take her mind off her problematic life situation, she thought of doing charity work. Catriona collaborated with Young Focus, an organization that finances educational programs. As an immersion experience, she went to Tondo, Manila, where she was toured around the slum areas in the Smokey Mountain. It was a deeply moving and eye-opening experience for her.
“I couldn’t speak for, like, a couple of hours after just ’cause here I was complaining about my life, and then I see these people—they’re smiling, they’re playing in the trash, the kids are making toys out of basura, and it’s sweltering in the middle of the afternoon and it’s summer. They don’t have the simple luxuries that I have which I take for granted, and here I am complaining about something silly. That was a very pivotal moment in my life,” Catriona shares.
This experience was what convinced her to pursue pageantry. Upon seeing how her best friend, Miss World Philippines 2014 Valerie Weigmann, was able to raise funds for charity through being a beauty queen, she took that as an opportunity to champion her own advocacies.
Miss Universe in the making
Catriona is the total package—beautiful, smart, talented, confident, kind-hearted. Really, what more can you ask for in such a beauty queen? Her mom, their family friends, and many more people around her would always push her to try out pageantry, but it wasn’t until she saw the charitable aspect of being a beauty queen that she finally decided to pursue a crown.
Despite being a pageant newbie, Catriona bagged the Miss World Philippines 2016 title, with special awards to boot: Best in Swimsuit, Best in Evening Gown, Best in Fashion Runway, and Best in Talent. She showed so much promise on the international pageant stage at the Miss World competition held in the US, and she didn’t disappoint. What was, in fact, disappointing for her fans and many pageant fans in general was the result; Catriona—who won the Multimedia Award, placed second in the Talent challenge, and was part of the Top 5 at the “Beauty With a Purpose” project—only made it to the Top 5 of the pageant, losing to Puerto Rico’s Stephanie del Valle.
“Because of my last experience with pageantry, I didn’t want to join again. I feel like one pageant is enough for a lifetime,” Catriona says. “But then many people were telling me, ‘Cat, we believe in you. Please join Binibini. You have the potential to represent our country again. Please, please.’”
Not wanting to have any regrets or “what if I could’ve gotten the Miss Universe Philippines title?” thoughts lingering in her mind, Catriona decided to join Binibining Pilipinas 2018. And her participation made headlines; it was such a big news that excited both casual and die-hard pageant followers. After Pia Wurtzbach bagged the Miss Universe 2015 title, many felt that Catriona could be the fourth Filipina to be crowned Miss Universe.
All throughout the competition, many were rooting for her and they had no doubt that she will win the Miss Universe Philippines title, and she did! As someone who describes herself a perfectionist, Catriona nails everything she puts her mind to. To say that her overall performance in Binibining Pilipinas is impressive is quite an understatement—it’s beyond amazing!
She looked self-assured but open to learning and improving. She may have had moments when she was over-analytical but she would remind herself to enjoy the journey. As a result, Catriona bagged the Pitoy Moreno National Costume Award, the Jag Denim Queen Award, the Miss Ever Bilena Cosmetics Award, and the Best in Evening Gown and Best in Swimsuit awards. She did great on the Q&A portion as well, where she was asked for her message to the women of Marawi, and delivered a strong and heart-tugging answer.
More than a month after the coronation night, Catriona still finds her calendar packed. These days, she says, “It’s really just about trying to find a balance between preparing and fulfilling your duties as a queen.”
As she gears up for the Miss Universe pageant, she likes to lend her influence as a beauty queen to various causes such as her involvement with Young Focus and the non-government organization and HIV prevention advocacy group LoveYourself Inc.
Two years have passed since Catriona was in a pageant. She’s older, wiser, smarter, more mature, and more confident. After being in the international pageant stage once, she will make sure there will be a crowning moment next time she represents the Philippines onstage. “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well,” she quips, with her doe eyes dead set on winning the Miss Universe title and the coveted crown.
Q&A With Miss Universe Philippines 2018 Catriona Gray:
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I think it’s completely defined by yourself. For me, I'm happy when I'm pursuing an ambition. I'm a very ambitious person, so I really need that in my life. Also when I’m surrounded by my loved ones and when I'm giving back in some way. It’s so fulfilling to be able to share the blessings that you have—whether they be small or big. There is a feeling of fulfilment that comes from it that I don’t feel anything else can really fill.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I'm very over-analytical. But in some ways, I also find that it’s a strength. My over-analytical trait also ties in to being a perfectionist, just mostly with achieveing in my career. I'm also a creative so I have a vision that I wanna pursue and I wanna materialize that, so I get frustrated if I don’t. I learned that about myself in the last couple of years, so it doesn’t affect me the same way it used to. But yes, sometimes, there are moments when I need to tell myself to take a step back, relax, and just let things unfold organically. You can't control everything and everyone.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
One, my dad. He has been such an inspirational figure to me all my life. I've seen him overcome so many things. I've seen him put himself in situations that are not nice just to provide for us as a family. He’s always so wise, and no matter what challenge or difficulty we go through, or he goes through, he has this amazing mindset that he can be everything, and so far he has. For me, growing up, seeing that in my life, it's very inspirational.
Other than him, someone I look up to is Lea Salonga. I grew up listening to her voice on the cassette tapes of "Miss Saigon" which is my dad’s favorite musical and it so happens to be mine as well. She really connected to me in the music sense. Even though I was really young—I didn’t understand the message of "Miss Saigon," obviously, it’s a bit mature for a young girl, and I didn’t even know what the words she was singing meant—as soon as I heard her, something connected to me. She was this young Filipina who just brought all the eyes of the world to the Philippines and to Asia. As a little girl who was interested in music, she was an inspiration.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
It would be that he is ambitious but also supports you in what you wanna do. I think it's very hard to find someone like that, because usually when someone is ambitious, he wants a partner who’s constant while they go and pursue things; he wants you there to just be constant for them. I think it’s really special when you can find someone who’s ambitious but also pushes you to be ambitious.
My boyfriend and I, we’ve been together so long but we’ve kind of been with each other during the maturing stage, going into adulthood when we were unsure, we didn’t know what we were doing, things weren’t working out sometimes, and we were just figuring out our footing. And now that we both have our footing, we really push each other to succeed and that’s a wonderful environment to be in because you have that constant support and you have someone to tell you to “do this, keep going, keep working.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
I always see things to improve on, and that’s normal. If you take away all of that, how are you gonna change or evolve as a person? But I guess it would be that sometimes I am a bit hard on myself. And that just comes from my over-analytical nature. I'm learning to deal with it.
What do you think is your best quality?
That I'm very self-aware. I feel that I'm always aware of how my actions affect others, or I make an effort to try and be aware and try to understand people. Like, if someone acts out, I always try to understand that maybe they’re going through something, maybe it wasn’t intended that way, or maybe it was a miscommunication. I try and understand why and how things happen. And also, that’s what made me turn to charity work, that inner awareness that I need to be doing something.
What is your greatest regret?
I don’t have one. I mean, that’s really what made me join again. I didn’t want to have a regret—"What if I joined? What if I could’ve gotten Miss Universe Philippines?" I hope my story inspires other people too. A lot of people are trying to put you down, but you can always break through it. The only person who can decide on your fate is you.
What is your motto?
If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I believe that in everything you do, you should give your 120%, and I believe that only happens if you yourself decide to do it. No one can push you to do something, no one else can influence you. Once you decide that you wanna pursue something, give it a 100%, so you don’t have any regrets.
Produced by Grace Libero-Cruz
Photographs by Rxandy Capinpin
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Styling by Stylized Studio – Danae Dizon, Patrick Perez, Joy Bernardo, Steven Coralde, Aina Ampil, and Aia Tabuzo
Makeup by Jelly Eugenio
Hairstyling by Jaymar Lahaylahay
Shoot assistants: Sara delos Reyes, Jovi Figueroa, Mariel Abanes, and James Mangile
Special thanks to Gines Enriquez, Ivan de Lara, Terry Dy of Café Amazon, and Stephen Capuchino
Shot on location at Zoomburst Studios