It was like she was on top of the world.
And just like the sun that was gloriously setting while we chatted in an unusual yet magnificent venue for an interview—the ABS-CBN headquarters’ helipad—Catriona Gray shone. Our bet to the Miss Universe pageant this year seemed to stretch the daytime further with her mesmerizing beauty and charming candidness.
And then, we were all awestruck as she started to speak.
Catriona seemed ready to face that heart-stopping question and answer grilling in the pageant. But more than just being smart and intelligent, Catriona responded straight from the heart. When the winds blew in a somewhat chilly late afternoon, she exuded her warmth and straightforwardness that comforted us and made us believe she was more than a beauty queen.
Who would deny that, especially hearing what made her take the path to grandiose pageantry? That is, being so affected seeing kids suffer in the streets of Tondo.
“The thing that was a driving factor was the kids in Tondo. And sometimes people are like, “Oh, that’s so cliché because she’s a beauty queen. She said she loves charity”, but really that’s the catalyst for me,” Catriona tells ABS-CBN.com Entertainment in an exclusive interview.
As a volunteer for Young Focus, an NGO that provides educational and aid programs for underprivileged children, Catriona saw the pitiful plight of kids roaming the streets of Tondo and Smokey Mountain.
“When I grew up, I never experienced poverty first hand. I’d seen it through the screen, TV, YouTube, or whatever. But when I saw it first-hand for the first time, back in early 2016, I was so impacted,” she noted.
“I was in shock, I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that kind of poverty is existing right under our noses or just in our peripheral vision. That makes me so sad because I felt like it’s just being ignored. When I saw all the kids, I just fell in love with them, with all of my heart,” she added.
Connection to children
Catriona is the only child of Scottish-Australian Ian Gray and Albayanon Normita Magnayon, and was born and raised in Cairns, Queensland, Australia before moving the Philippines after high school to pursue modeling. And being that only child made kids special to her.
“I have a connection to kids in the first place. I am an only child and I always want to have siblings. When I first went to Tondo and I saw the kids and how they were living, I just couldn’t do nothing,” Catriona said.
And this experience spurred that longing for the “good platform” to make a difference.
“So I really pursued the cause and saw that the pageantry was a good platform (because) people are listening to what you are saying. I just realized how much a beauty queen could do. That’s why I pursued pageantry.”
Miss World to Miss Universe
That same year she was crowned Miss World Philippines, and landed in the Top Five of the Miss World Pageant held in Maryland, USA.
After that respectable finish in the Miss World pageant, Catriona decided to join the Binibining Pilipinas pageant early this year. Here she was named the official candidate to Miss Universe, a grandiose, wide-reaching stage to voice out her education advocacy to benefit underprivileged children.
This becomes the summit of her journey, as she had become so involved in bringing that two-year cause to light.
“Back in 2016, I began fundraising for Young Focus, I had benefit concerts here and abroad, and I also auctioned some of my artworks and even approached different sponsors to get monetary sponsorship,” she said.
“Actually in 2017, the building we had renovated and purchased was able to be open ad now it is being used as a school and the kids are using it now. So that’s something I’m very proud of… Being able to be a part of providing a new learning center for Young Focus (catering for) up to 400 kids was just like, ‘wow.’ It was just amazing,” Catriona declared.
That chance to become the next Miss Universe would surely be a very big step closer to realizing her dream, given the influence the title brings on a global scale. “What I can achieve in Miss Universe is what I could really give back to those kids who really deserve a better future,” she said.
Thus, Catriona’s bid to become the 2018 Miss Universe is not merely to flaunt her beauty, astuteness, and poise, not to mention that alluring figure and chic style, but moreso to amplify a cause so close to her heart.
Let’s watch and support Catriona in the upcoming 2018 Miss Universe pageant this December 17 to be aired live on ABS-CBN.