Catriona Gray wins PH's 4th Miss Universe crown

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 17) — She might have not ruled the "World," but Catriona Gray has conquered the "Universe."

After failing to bring home the Miss World title two years ago, the 24-year-old Filipino-Australian beauty on Monday made a strong comeback in the international pageant scene after bagging the Miss Universe (MU) 2018 crown in Bangkok, Thailand.

She bested 93 other candidates from different countries. Demi Leigh Nel-Peters from South Africa passed the iconic Mikimoto crown to Gray.

She is the fourth Filipino to bring home the coveted title, joining Gloria Diaz, Margie Moran, and Pia Wurtzbach who won in 1969, 1973, and 2015, respectively.


Gray was a standout during the entire coronation night — from her eloquent opening statement, her once-again slow-mo walk during the swimsuit competition, up to the her show-stopping performance at the evening gown portion. But what possibly sealed her fate as the next Miss Universe queen was her answer during the question and answer segment.

The Top 3 candidates — Miss Philippines, South Africa's Tamaryn Green, and Venezuela's Sthefany Gutiérrez — were asked about the most important lesson they've learned and how they would apply it on their Miss Universe reign.

Gray shared her immersion experience in the slums of Tondo, Manila.

"The life there is poor and it's very sad. I've always taught myself to look for the beauty in it, to look for the beauty in the faces of the children and to be grateful. I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining. To assess where I could give something, where I could provide something," she answered, drawing thunderous cheers in the audience.

Right after the coronation, Filipino pageant fans gathered outside the Impact Arena in Bangkok to cheer for Gray, while singing the country's national anthem and waving the Philippine flag proudly.


Early favorite

Gray was among the most sought-after candidates of this year's Miss Universe, consistently topping forecasts by different pageant analysts and observers ahead of the coronation.

She made an early statement when she flew to Thailand donning a modern Thai ensemble.

During pre-pageant events, she wore dresses mostly incorporated with Filipino silk like the T'nalak of the T'boli tribe in Mindanao.

Gray also sent the internet abuzz with a slow-motion turn during the swimsuit portion of the preliminary competition.

From 'World' to 'Universe'

Before becoming a beauty queen, Gray was a model and singer with a Master Certificate in Music Theory from Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA.

She also has a Certificate in Outdoor Recreation and a black belt in Choi Kwang-Do.

Gray volunteers for non-government organization Young Focus that provides free education to children in Tondo, Manila, and works with Love Yourself PH in promoting HIV/AIDS awareness.

In 2016, Gray joined Miss World Philippines and won the right to represent the country in the international level of the beauty contest.

She was among the front-runners ahead of the competition, but she failed to bag the title, which dismayed many pageant fans worldwide. Puerto Rico's Stephanie del Valle was hailed as the winner while Gray finished in the top 5.

Gray made a mark in her first international pageant stint during Miss World 2016 with an outstanding answer to the question, "Which qualities do you think it will take to wear my crown?"

"I think first of all, it takes bravery. To be a Miss World is to carry a burning torch. It is like action carried out by one to illuminate the lives of many. And I would dedicate my whole self, my love for the arts, and my voice to trying to uplift, empower, and educate people. And it would be my greatest honor and duty to hold this torch high enough so that all the world could feel and see its light," she said.

Strong comeback

When Rachel Peters fell short during Miss Universe last year, pageant fans began calling on Gray online to represent the country in the annual beauty pageant.

Reports about Gray joining Binibining Pilipinas (BBP) made rounds on social media in January ahead of the submission of application for the national pageant. True enough, she submitted her application form, to the delight of her legion of fans.

Despite going up against other returnees and titleholders, Gray consistently topped polls and forecasts ahead of the BBP coronation. And in March, she was hailed as the top winner, bagging her rights to represent the Philippines in Miss Universe 2018.

On top of this, Gray also won numerous awards, including major ones such as the Best in Swimsuit, Best in Long Gown, and the "Pitoy Moreno" Best in National Costume Award.

CNN Philippines' Robert Vergara and Lara Tan contributed to this report.