While a little overdue, the Philippines just recently welcomed Catriona Gray back home to celebrate her Miss U win. “To come back here as Miss Universe 2018, it looks like a fast journey on the screen but that happened over the course of two years, with all the things people don’t see behind the scenes,” the young, ever-eloquent beauty queen said at her homecoming press conference. “It brings me so much pride and honor to be able to bring so much joy to my country, the Philippines.”
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Catriona—our first #ABSCBNLifestyleInspo or site guest editor—excitedly revealed the reason behind this mix of emotions that has shaped her journey. “Lahat! Whether it was in representing Philippines to the world because of course being Miss Philippines, people would take their impression of Filipino people from how I were to conduct myself, so I really try and endeavor to be a very good representation of my country in that aspect,” she shared.
For Catriona, the reason was more so on how she's showcased so much of the Philippine culture and history. “The things like my national costume, doing a series of videos that I hoped would further educate about the aspects that I highlight in my costume even in my wardrobe, sharing our textiles, our symbolisms, our inspirations as a nation through an avenue of fashion and of course, even every time that I spoke, I always wanted to push the advocacies here in the Philippines that have my heart. So really it encapsulated my whole journey as a Filipina and I felt that that was one of the most fulfilling parts.”
But apart from the obvious, what exactly has changed in Catriona's life after her coronation? “I went from being a voice to the Philippines to a voice to the international audience,” she declared. “With that comes a little bit of pressure but also an amazing opportunity. Throughout the last two months, it has been something that I have been navigating to with the guidance of my Miss Universe family and also with the people that have surrounded me, with the people who have supported me.”
[related: Hot Stuff: Bicolana Catriona Gray's Red, Hot Evening Gown Took Inspiration From Mayon Volcano!]
Since her coronation, we've seen Catriona go all glam on her posts. But, not many really know about her struggles of it, too, she would confess. "The things that I do am challenged with are of course being away from home, being away from my friends and my family,” she said, albeit very hopeful and grateful for the experience. “I realized that this is also a once in a lifetime opportunity and even though the year will go by so fast, I really have been busy making plans about things I want to do during my reign and I really hope to leave a positive impact as Miss Universe 2018.”
Among her plans are dedicating much of her time to her education-based organization Young Focus, volunteer-run HIV/AIDS organization Love Yourself Philippines, Binibining Pilipinas Charities, and Smile Train. “I really am so happy that I get to spend time with those charities—especially my own charities—and kind of get in touch with them, see how everything has developed so far, and discuss how I can help moving forward.”
After all, for the beauty queen, it has always been about giving back to her country. “It has been something that has anchored me throughout this whole process and it’s always been where I have drawn strength from every step of the way,” she said, turning quite emotional. “I just want to say thank you and that this is all for you.”
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Photographs by Vyn Radovan