As she prepares for her upcoming wedding—complete with mood boards and all—Catriona Gray talks to MEGA about continuing the conversation on HIV awareness, the evil of social media and the unrealistic standards set on women
This is an excerpt from the MEGA October 2023 issue.
Being a half-Filipina who grew up in Australia, Gray had her fair share of confusion when it came to how many things were defined in her environment, including the concept of beauty. “When I was a teenager, I was a huge consumer of the media,” she recalls. “I thought beauty was really a shade, or it was defined by what was in the magazines or what I saw in the movies. It was kind of hard for someone who has mixed ethnicity. I didn’t really feel represented in a lot of media that I saw growing up. Nowadays, it’s a very different story.”
Joining pageants has allowed her to reflect on and redefine the concept of beauty: “There are so many beautiful people in the world that there is no word or description to be able to encapsulate them all. And the best type of beautiful is not how people remember the way you look but how you made them feel. It’s in your energy.”
But the online world has a lot of evolving to do. Through all the work and messages of encouragement, there will always be people who will give derogatory remarks on someone’s weight, height, skin color, hair, shape, accent—name it, it’s there. “The online world is an unpoliced, open forum,” she says emphatically. It’s part of why she doesn’t post much on social media. “There is no consequence to saying horrible things to people. So, there’s nothing to deter people from saying mean things. And I guess it’s just something that I’m not going to say I’ve learned to accept because I do still get affected from time to time—I am human. But I really try to reinforce how I see myself, the fact that I’m more than an image. I hope that women would be considered more than an image and more than something to be looked at. We have things to offer and put on the table and to speak about and to contribute.”
With that, she admits that while her career picked up after winning a competition, the kind of competition that social media and society itself promote can be detrimental to many aspects of humanity. And it’s a subject, she says, that we should keep talking about. Besides, her most glaring skill—whether she’s a model, a beauty queen, or a musician—has always been connecting with people and sending a message across different platforms.
“Pageants are a competition, obviously, so that competitive spirit is there,” she says. “But I’ve always believed that each woman represents something in her journey and it’s not the crown that validates that journey. Unfortunately, I see it so much: women are always compared to one another. Whenever there’s a successful woman, another one is compared to her. And it’s a narrative that I don’t know how we can fix, but I really hope it gets fixed because among women, there should be celebration and uplifting. We can all have our own successes in their different forms, and we should be celebrated together— not ranked, like ‘Who wore it better?’ It shouldn’t be that way.”
NO STEPPING BACK
Gray is entering “a new chapter” in her life as she prepares for her wedding to actor Sam Milby. They got engaged, after more than three years together, in February this year. She doesn’t want to say much about the wedding—partly due to the reasons stated above, and also because she likes keeping the special things private.
“I think I’m putting in the stress now so that I can relax later, because my goal for the big day is to really enjoy and be present,” she says, a notion which she shared years ago when she competed at Miss Universe: plan hard, then have fun later.
Photography SHAIRA LUNA
Fashion Direction KAT CRUZ-VILLANUEVA
Makeup JELLY EUGENIO
Hair PAUL NEBRES
Sittings Editor PEEWEE REYES-ISIDRO
Shot on location BULGARI HOTEL ULUWATU BALI INDONESIA
Special thanks to JESHA ABAD OF BULGARI PHILIPPINES