Google Catriona Gray and what do you get? A bunch of news bites about her recent departure to Thailand for the Miss Universe pageant, her social media pages, and tons of other beauty queens and models who, anyone would think, relates to her more than anyone else. Click through her Wikipedia page and you get textbook basics that you’ll probably also see on an old slambook she signed when she was a little girl. Even with her words and actions always put under a microscope, there seems nothing too in-depth about Catriona we’ll ever find, circulating on the internet.
Since bringing home the crown as Miss World Philippines in 2016, all we’ve ever known about Catriona are fundamental information recycled over and over to fit an intro of an article. She’s been introduced so many times yet we’ve known so little about her and that I realized as I go through her interview with MEGA Magazine’s Associate Editor, Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena. There’s so much about her that’s always been there yet it’s outshined by big beauty queen curls, chandelier earrings, sparkly dresses, and the crown.
Light faux fur leopard cropped jacket by STRADIVARIUS and dark leopard print coat by ZARA
What Comes After A Crown
“Of course, I was disappointed,” Catriona shares as she opens up about the Miss World pageant. While she didn’t get to bring home the title, the lightness that followed those words told me she was genuinely alright. “It made me realize that things happen for a reason,” she continues. “Despite not taking the title, I was still able to see my project come to fruition like my school [that I raised funds for] opened.” 2017 was all about people egging her to join another pageant, she added. People coming up to her saying she needs to join again but this persistence is something she couldn’t understand. “I was like, ‘Why are they persistent? Why did they believe in me so much?'”
It’s not a surprise that a lot of people have been pushing her to join pageants again. It’s not easy to let such grace go with just two pageants down her list. But Catriona was just as resolute as everyone, only with her charity works, spending the whole of 2017 on her advocacy that has significantly transpired through her efforts and other people’s help. “Open that year, I was able to get some equipment [for my school] and to see that come together [is] very fulfilling for me. That made me realize that just by not bringing home the crown, I had something that made me really proud and really fulfilled.”
But in the hierarchy of crowns set by the great mass of pageant enthusiasts plus a lot more other supporters, Catriona thought that if she does join Binibining Pilipinas, there’s only one title she’s got to be after: Miss Universe. “It was just a bit of hesitancy on my end because I didn’t know how they put the girls into the different crowns. So there was that risk.” Analytical as she is in weighing the pros and cons of joining another pageant, she kept in mind a lesson her father taught her since she was a little girl, “Never live life with regret.” This would later become her motivation to join the pageant where she’ll bring home the title “Miss Universe-Philippines”.
Sheer leopard print top by STRADIVARIUS and checkered boy’s cap by ZARA
Never Live Life With Regret
“What if I go on [without joining] and I think to myself, ‘What if I had joined? What if I could have gone to Miss Universe? If I could have performed at my best?'” Catriona was 23 then and thought she had nothing to lose. At such a young age, she thought “it’s now or never.” She has finally considered joining the pageant—a decision that shocked her close friends and family. These are the same people who were only waiting for her to make a decision on her own. Having known Catriona better than anyone else, they do realize that she’s not the type to put her whole self into something unless she decides to do it herself.
Her decision to join Binibining Pilipinas was a secret she kept from the general public. “I only did that because I just didn’t want anyone to be prepared for me,” she laughs. It was a triumphant reveal as she posts a head shot of her on Instagram with the caption, “Are you ready for it?” And just like many of her adventures, this is just another one that taught her a lesson, calling the experience “humbling”.
Contrary to what people believed, Catriona has never thought that she had it in the bag. “I saw that there were very strong girls in my batch because you know, ‘I’m experienced. I was a queen before.’ I have never thought of that. Also because I’m a professional, I will see everything that needs to improve.” There were a lot of risks she took just by joining Binibining Pilipinas. Another one is that she competed as an independent candidate. “That, in itself, is uncharted territory because an independent candidate has never won Miss Universe-Philippines.” Despite all the doubts she had in her head, deciding to independently compete was, to her, one of the best decision she ever made.
A Queen In Her Own Right
What made Catriona Gray a queen is not her background as a model. It was not just her pretty face, figure, or wits. Having won a crown before, she only keeps on proving that it was indeed her efforts that brought her to where she is right now. Expressing her creative side is just one of those she’s done for the title. This, of course, is something she couldn’t have done on her own. “Having a team that I can throw ideas back and forth made me feel like really a part of this vision,” she shares. “I was able to be hands-on and be like, ‘Hey, what about this color?’ Or ‘My eyes would be beautiful in this silhouette.’” The same team that shared the same vision as hers has also become her family throughout the competition. “They’re so supportive. They create a barrier for me—a core to lean back on.” These people are who she considers one her greatest strengths in her journey to the crown, filling in the gap of having her family far from her during the competition.
More than her efforts within the contest, Catriona has also been using her platform as a title-holder to raise awareness on her advocacies. “When beauty queens speak, people listen. I think that’s very unique to us here. To have that social platform, for me, has been very enabling because I do have advocacies that are close to my heart like that’s the big part of why I do what I do.” Having met leaders, professionals, and different sectors of the community, Catriona is only even more motivated to win the Miss Universe crown.
“It makes you realize that when you have the sash “Philippines”, you’re representing every single person. There’s something that you need to step up to. Of course, there is always pressure. I mean, it’s automatic with the Philippine sash but it’s not a debilitating pressure. It’s not a pressure that made me cower and hide. It’s a pressure that just makes me wanna do all. I wanna make my country proud,” Catriona continues.
Leopard tailored jumpsuit by JAG GUEVARRA
Dreams Envisioned, Dreams Realized
On December 17, 2018, Catriona Gray will once again represent the Philippines. This time, she’s after the Miss Universe crown. In this competition, she’s giving more than her best. Her heart carries the weight of the Filipino pride and the vision of being the voice to put her advocacies out for more people to hear. Going past doubts and questions to herself, Catriona will finally have her dreams realized. Will she bring home the Miss Universe crown? We all hope so but one thing is for sure, even without a crown, Catriona’s dreams to help the less fortunate, be heard, and live a life without any regret have already been happening right before her eyes.
Photography by Dookie Ducay
Art direction by Jann Pascua
Styling by Jeb Fronda and Lyn Alumno
Beauty direction by Trina Epilepsia Boutain
Makeup by Jelly Eugenio
Hair by Brent Sales
Nails by Extraordinail Salon
Sittings editors Peewee Isidro Reyes and Angelo Ramirez de Cartagena
Shoot coordination Thea Martin
Shoot assistant Azelle Estacio
Shot on location at New Monarq Creativx Studio