Who is Catriona Gray Today? 5 Personal Truths Revealed in MEGA: The Next Move

Who is Catriona Gray Today? 5 Personal Truths Revealed in MEGA: The Next Move


Catriona Gray talks to MEGA about the before, during, and after of winning the crown as Miss Universe 2018—and reveals five truths about her journey as an advocate, beauty queen, and philanthropist.

In a glorious and celebratory moment back in 2018, Catriona Gray stepped out into the world in the red dress inspired by the Mayon Volcano and her much lauded lava walk, and moments later, was granted a title that holds the weight of a whole country. In an industry that projects physical and intellectual beauty, cultural awareness, and national pride, it is essentially her heart that took home the crown—Catriona is a woman of purpose and objective who takes something with her bare hands and molds it. Taking a seat with MEGA Editor-in-Chief Peewee Reyes-Isidro for the latest episode of MEGA: The Next Move, the Miss Universe 2018 engages in a candid conversation to lay out five revelations about her journey—around and beyond pageantry.

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Catriona Gray and MEGA Editor-in-Chief Peewee Reyes-Isidro talk about navigating the beauty queen’s identity as a Miss Universe winner, philanthropist, advocate, and a creative—all with a heart of passion.

1. Pageantry was never in the cards for the international titleholder

For some, it’s a dream. For Catriona, it was a happenstance: “This was a journey I did not foresee.” She admits to MEGA that joining the industry was actually a means to acquire a platform that would bolster and support her heart for community work, an advocacy that truly shapes her DNA.

Modeling did not give her this opportunity. “It wasn’t something I necessarily found a lot of joy in,” she says. “I like the creative process, the vision, the styling—but as an individual with lots of thoughts and opinions, I felt like a mannequin.” The beauty queen says she had much more to offer beyond fronting the cameras, but she reiterates that the work allowed her to meet Filipino creatives and allowed her a moment and space to reflect on her perspective around beauty—and the mold the world insisted she fit best in. “How do I define beauty for myself in an industry that’s telling me I need to be this way? What image am I portraying to young girls while I tell them that they’re not small enough to fit into this box? Am I going to allow people to make me feel this way about myself, or do I need to form that understanding for myself?,” Catriona would often ask herself. The modeling chapter for the beauty queen was a learning curve, and gave her the resolution and desire to break out of that small box and take the meaning of success and beauty with her own hands. Being able to do so, and voice her thoughts and opinions as a woman with such strong beliefs in the Miss Universe stage felt like a significant turning point for her. With the eyes of the world on the Philippines’ candidate, Catriona chose to highlight her work with the poor and with communities in need.

Her passion was formed at a time when she felt aimless and felt the weight of supporting her family crush her; she found purpose in volunteering for a non-governmental organization. “That’s how it began,” she says. “And a friend of mine was joining Miss World, and I thought: I’m doing this on my own. What more can I do with a platform if more people were involved with what I care about?”

Catriona visited patients at Smile Train Philippines at the height of her reign—today, she is still spearheading fundraisers for the organization

Aside from envisioning and doing great change, Catriona’s 2018 campaign changed the landscape of pageantry worldwide as she put all her effort into making the National Costume segment significant. “It’s the one chance for the representative to be a part of our culture and invite people to know more,” she says. “There’s no other part in the competition that gives you that opportunity.”

Furthermore, since her reign, the huge strides in inclusivity make it evident that pageantry is a platform, not just a competition. Taking measures off such as age limit, height limit, civil status limitations, and that more transgender women are competing, it boosts pageantry into a more uplifting scale. “Women were always given glass ceilings,” Catriona states. “If you’re thriving in a family life, there’s no way you can have a great career. Or if you have kids, it’s selfish of you to do something for yourself. Pageants now have evolved past that.” However, she’s also hopeful for more change and improvement, believing that women should be able to have the freedom to choose how they should display their bodies for the world to see in the swimsuit competition. 

2. While it was unexpected, Miss Universe taught her three things: be present, regain your power, and enjoy all the high and low seasons

Navigating the public sphere was a challenge for the beauty queen. She shares that having people outside your country know your name was overwhelming, that the ‘bigness’ for a titleholder becomes immensely profuse. “Even in the competition, time passes by so fast,” she tells MEGA. “So I need to be present, to have a conscious moment with what I’m feeling. How will I remember this moment—because it’s all so fleeting?”

Catriona’s winning moment being crowned Miss Universe 2018

Further, she expresses that winning the crown threw her into a bit of a loop, especially with her original intent of using it as support for causework. Catriona admits to feeling disheartened that she can’t be a leader in the duration of her reign, and there wasn’t much opportunity beyond the business side of pageantry. “I couldn’t understand why we can’t balance it with on-ground initiatives that are true to my values and advocacy. My message on the night that I won, was that I am a queen of service and people,” she says in full honesty. “I couldn’t control it, but I could control myself. So I channeled all my energy into planning what I wanted to do after my reign—regaining my power again.”

Finally, taking home the crown is such a universal and public moment, one might assume it would be the queen’s peak. Catriona mentions feeling a pressure to reach that same public achievement, but has come to realize in her whole Miss Universe journey that peaks come in different forms, and that, “it doesn’t have to be public for it to be significant to you. All of that is unique to my journey that it doesn’t look like anyone else’s. I’ve come to appreciate both the high and low seasons.”

3. Catriona is constantly in the pursuit of fronting the Filipino culture and the arts

Growing up in Australia, the titleholder shared that not understanding or speaking the language was the biggest hindrance in moving to the Philippines—a disconnect, if you will, from her Filipina roots. However, she shared that as her mother embodied and carried who the Filipino is, there was an exposure that did not feel as foreign or as unfamiliar when she stepped foot into her motherland. “Then, it was through the course of the pageant and understanding the weight of the Filipino sash that I really dove deep into our culture,” Catriona tells MEGA. “I have a greater appreciation for the Filipino culture, in things like textiles, jewelry-making, and the way of life in finding what makes us uniquely Pinoy. My journey in pageantry, I really want it to be a showcase of the identity of the Filipino people even if it’s through fashion or an accessory or a symbol—it’s small, but it’s an invitation to learn more.”

Catriona has been upholding the role of ambassador for the NCCA for four years now

The beauty queen is currently the ambassador of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and she shares that this is a position she is immensely grateful for—an opportunity to learn and an invitation for people to learn alongside her. “There’s so much to be said about our poetry and dancers and musicians,” she says, highlighting that there is a space for art in the universe for Filipino people.

4. Catriona’s golden rules of style consists of two things: figure and confidence

Even the beauty queen finds style and fashion to be ever-changing and continuously evolving—a reflection of self and an outward projection of how you want to be perceived. For Catriona, she shares she’s always been drawn to well-tailored clothing and timeless, classic pieces inspired by her mother, but her love for creativity makes her explorative spirit come alive. “I love playing with loud patterns, different textures, and shapes on my body,” she says.

When asked about being a wearer of a Filipino designer’s creation, Catriona passionately remarks, “I find a lot of pride in it. I always expect two things: one, remembering how well I was supported on the world stage by my countrymen, so I want to elevate other people and other creatives trying to put their art form into the universe—because they are so deserving and capable of holding space on that international level; and two, I think the designs are beautiful. Having a piece in your outfit uniquely made is a conversation-starter, and I love the value that it brings—it gives you an opportunity to share something about your culture.”

Catriona Gray red gown Anthony Ramirez
Catriona wore a Filipino-made gown by Anthony Ramirez while hosting the 72nd Miss Universe

That said, Catriona’s first rule is to find what flatters you and position your style into your innate understanding of what you are comfortable with physically depending on your body type and proportions. Her second? Wear what makes you feel good or confident. “This is something I applied in my pageant journey as well,” she admits to MEGA. “I wasn’t looking for a specific silhouette or a specific color, all the outfit needed to do was make me feel at my best, my most confident, my most powerful and capable. And fashion has the ability to make you feel a certain way.”

5. Her twenties were a playground for figuring out who she is—and now, she knows.

Having just turned thirty this year, Catriona shares that there’s much to learn and navigate and figure out in her twenties. She reveals it was easy to get swept up in the world, to get tied down to the definitions of beauty and success in the industry and in the age of social media. “I was figuring out what being a spokesperson means to me as well. Because if I allowed it to be defined by the people in the industry, I’ll feel like I’m in a race, but in my thirties, I’m more self-assured,” she tells MEGA.

As a woman with vision and passion and so much heart poured into everything she does, Catriona says this vision became even more concrete and clear now that she has built her confidence and found herself a position where she can truly be happy—in her advocacy work, in connecting with other people, and creating. “I truly feel I’m now stepping into a place where I know how I define beauty, success, happiness—and even if those evolve, I now have the confidence,” she says. “And I feel more well-supported, well-loved, and more open to people.”

Catriona is more self-assured and the picture of confidence and grace in her thirties

Since her reign six years ago, Catriona Gray is now in the works of putting together her first business with a community arm. In the realm of creative pursuits, she also reveals that she has exciting endeavors coming up. “I felt busy last year,” she shares, “but I didn’t have a ‘baby,’ a project that I created. So this year is the year of sowing. I’m planting the seeds. I’m going back to my roots and creating again—and I’m excited to offer it to the world.”

To watch the whole podcast episode, visit MEGA’s official YouTube channel here.

You can also listen to the episode on MEGA’s official Spotify here.

Photography KIM SANTOS of KLIQ INC.


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