‘Romanticizing’ poverty? Miss Universe Catriona Gray’s winning answer draws mixed reactions


MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ Catriona Gray made her country proud when she bagged the Miss Universe crown but her winning answer did not sit well with some.

At the finale of a fierce competition Monday in the Thai capital Bangkok, Gray, 24, edged out 93 other candidates with her signature “lava walk,” Mayon Volcano-inspired red-hot gown and her grace under pressure during the question and answer portion.

In her final answer, Gray said her experience working in the slums of Tondo, Manila taught her to “look in the beauty of the children” and be grateful.

“And I will bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. And this I think if I can teach people to be grateful, we can have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster and children will have smile on their faces,” she said.

FULL TEXT: Miss Universe 2018 Q&A with top 5, final 3

While her response partly helped her win, one netizen said Gray’s answer was “problematic.” Meanwhile, some said Gray's reply "romanticized" poverty.

'Open to learning'

But some went to defend Gray and urged people to cut her some slack.

Beauty pageants are popular in the Philippines, where inflation hit multi-year highs in the past months and the poor accounts for nearly a quarter of the country's 105 million population.

The first round of Q&A raised the issue of drugs, which brings to mind Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal narcotics crackdown that has killed thousands of mostly urban, poor Filipinos.

Asked what she thought about legalizing marijuana, Gray said: "I'm for it being used for medical use, but not so for recreational use. Because I think if people will argue, then what about alcohol and cigarettes? Everything is good but in moderation."

Gray succeeds the 2017 winner, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa. With her victory, the Bicolana beauty queen now joins the gallery of Filipina Miss Universe titleholders, namely Gloria Diaz, Margie Moran and Pia Wurtzbach, who won in 2015. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral

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