Just to think that soon I’ll be standing on the Miss Universe stage with the “Philippines” sash across my heart makes me feel all sorts of emotions. Some days I’m so giddy I can’t sleep thinking about all the things I still need to do, what I still need to prepare—not having an official date or venue yet for MU only makes everything feel that much more “up in the air.” Some days, usually when I’m out and about, a supporter will approach me and I’m caught off-guard. Sa loob-loob ko, I’m still just Catriona, but then I’m reminded that “Shucks, yun pala–I’m Miss Universe Philippines." But everyday, my heart is so, so grateful.
July marks the fourth month of my reign as Miss Universe Philippines 2018. Insert every excited, beside-yourself emoji here! Had you told me one year ago that I’d be given this amazing opportunity I would have looked at you like you were crazy. For my supporters and friends that have followed my journey since 2016, you would know that my second foray into pageantry was one that was clouded in apprehension and fear. But despite all the challenges, I put my head down and worked hard, and now—I’m here. To those who are reading this thinking, what could be hard about being a beauty-queen, I’d be happy to debate that we are not only given the tremendous task of representing our country on the international stage— but are at the scrutiny and judgment of thousands of social-media users and watchers all over the world. That, in addition to the fact that the Philippines has become a powerhouse in pageantry, gives me a very big reputation to live up to.
So, am I feeling any pressure right now? Yes… and no.
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If there’s anything to know about me, I’m organized. Like, bordering on crazy, powerpoint presentations and spreadsheets levels organized. My planner is practically attached to my body along with my 10-ish notebooks that are filled with notes and plans and goals. Forget shoes, I have notebooks in every color. It might sound a little excessive but I have found it’s easier to work towards a dream by breaking up the goals needed to get there into smaller, bite-size pieces. It helps me not to feel so overwhelmed by the tremendous journey that still lies ahead.
With that being said, it literally takes an entire village to make a beauty queen. Every training, lesson and preparation I do is with the help and/or collaboration of a group of very passionate individuals who I’ve, as an independent beauty queen not affiliated with any camps, handpicked to be a part of my journey. They, along with my Binibining Pilipinas Charity Inc. family, have become my dream team. Positive energy, a sense of family and teamwork is really, really important to me.
So, how does one prepare to represent the Philippines at Ms Universe? A sneak peak into my preparations aka current full time job looks like this:
Mind. With the modern generation of beauty queens I’m so happy knowing that our character, insight and wisdom are given a spotlight as well as the traditional aspects of beauty and performance. I constantly read (if you haven’t deduced already I’m a bit of a nerd haha) and constantly talk to people. I learn so much from different insights and points of view and I think that’s important, seeing as I’ll be representing 100 million Filipinos. I also take part in workshops and our Binibini Dale Carnegie courses on public speaking. I also like to travel and getaway with my friends because sometimes I need to relax and just have fun! Life moves so fast and if I were to just see the next few months through the lens of the pageant I would miss out on so many different and beautiful memories and experiences.
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Next, Body. If you look at my Instagram you’ll pick up that amongst travel, music and arts – I love food. So in preparing to strut my stuff in a two-piece in front of millions of people, am I eating just carrots and celery sticks? No, of course not. Being confidently beautiful is a completely self-defined thing and personally, is more of a feeling than a certain image/look. I feel beautiful when I have energy and when I feel strong and capable. So for diet, I’m taking a whole food approach. Less processed, packaged foods, more fresh, homemade meals. I cook and usually like to pack my own baon (thanks Mum for teaching me to know my way around a kitchen). Also I do a combination of physical activity—my favorites being Pilates and functional training. I love seeing my endurance, strength and flexibility improve. Pilates is amazing for my posture, which is one of the most important aspects of catwalk. Whereas functional training conditions my body as well as pushes me mentally. I feel amazing knowing that come MU, I will be showing off a strong, healthy Catriona Gray. Performance-wise I’m taking a multifaceted approach to performance as a whole, as well as my usual paserela (walking) sessions that I partake in weekly.
Lastly, the Heart. This is perhaps one of the most core aspects of my preparations. Aside from working alongside various charities as well as with Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc, I’m working on projects with Young Focus, an education-based organization based in Tondo Manila and LoveYourself, an volunteer run organization who helps educate, test and give support in regards to HIV and AIDS. Advocacy is essential to me as a Filipina beauty queen, but also as a human being. Giving back allows me to stay grounded and humble and reminds of my responsibility and the reason I was given this platform in the first place. Stay tuned on my social media: facebook.com/catrionaelisagray and Instagram @catriona_gray for updates on how you could contribute and take part in my causes.
The main objective of all this preparation is of course, to give my best possible performance for the Philippines at the upcoming MU 2018 pageant but applied to any other aspect of life, preparing for a pageant (minus the makeup/hair and catwalk training— unless you wanna slay the hallways of your office with a killer walk haha) can be applied to anyone, whatever profession or walk of life they may find themselves in. After all, we’re all aiming for a crown of our own in the form of a goal or dream. It’s just up to us to put our heads down, put the work in and see what the universe has in store for us.
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Produced by Barry Viloria | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Cinematography by Lui Jimenez and Tin Zabat | Editing by Tin Zabat | Makeup by Muriel Vega Perez using Clinique PH | Hair by Xy Eugenio | Styling by Randz Manucom | Interview by Mels Timan | Shot on location at the Chairman Suite of Marriott Hotel Manila | Special thanks to Hope Velasco of Marriott Hotel Manila
Clothing credits: H&M
Accessories (crowns and earrings): Jun Ablaza