Catriona is an only child. Her mom and her Australian dad Ian Gray were in Bangkok to support Catriona during the pageant, where she beat 93 other aspirants.
Miss Universe Organization/Patrick Prather
The Silver Lining: How reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray spent her year
Ratziel San Juan ( - December 8, 2019 - 3:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — "I always had a voice and during this year as a reigning Miss Universe, I was given the opportunity to amplify it and lend my voice to the causes that burned in my heart."

These words of outgoing Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray ring true as her year-long reign rests on actions consistent with her statements.

Before and after being crowned at the 67th Miss Universe in December 2018, Catriona was already known as “the queen who serves” for being vocal and active on her various advocacies, which range from building opportunities for the underprivileged to advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.

"At the beginning of this year, I wanted so that anyone who would follow along with my journey, that they could see Catriona. They could see my passion for my causework. They could see me," the 25-year-old said in a video posted last week, capping off her once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It can be recalled that the Philippines’ fourth Miss Universe won nods and hearts when she spoke about how she would search for beauty amidst adversity in her answer to the Top 3 question last year.

“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 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 a smile on their faces.”

Before the queen crowns the new Miss Universe 2019 on Monday, here’s a quick recap showing the silver lining in Catriona’s year:

Promoting youth rights and welfare

While Miss Universe 2018 is adored by many, the queen proved that she’s not afraid of breaking conventions when online critics quickly came to tell her that she should have stayed silent on controversial legislation that proposed to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

Described as “misinformed” in her stance by Malacañang and “unbefitting” of a Miss Universe crown, Catriona stood by her principles when she said in February this year that the government should instead focus on addressing the factors that lead children to commit crimes.

“I really feel that it’s important for us to readjust our focus as to why these children [are] committing those crimes because I worked a lot with children and anyone knows children are not disposed to do that kind of act or to act that way. As a nation, I think we should focus on eradicating these external pressures,” the Filipino-Australian beauty queen said in an interview with News5.

“Once you label a child such… as child in conflict with the law, how are you bringing them up to see themselves or the community to see them?”
Indeed, she’s an advocate for the underprivileged youth in word and in deed.

In her winning Miss Universe answer, Catriona mentioned her work in the slums of Tondo, Manila. This involves helping raise funds to procure a building that would serve as a Preschool and Childcare Center for the youth of Smokey Mountain in Tondo.

The model-singer’s debut music single “We’re in this Together” — released in November 2018 and written to spread awareness on the plight of Tondo children — was even played live on a New York City-based radio station in January.

She also visited the Harlem Village Academy in October to speak to New York youth about overcoming life's adversities such as substance abuse and bullying.

Battling HIV/AIDS stigma and promoting care

Catriona again made heads turn when she released an open letter to women on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Known for her eloquence, Catriona directly addressed the stigma surrounding the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and its most advanced stage, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

“HIV/AIDS knows no gender, sexual preference or lifestyle. It can affect anyone and it does. But, the message I want to share today is not one of fear,” read the letter released to by non-profit group LoveYourself, dedicated to promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and one of the advocacies Catriona supports.

“In writing this, I want to create a safe space of learning, acceptance, and empowerment—for all women on the front of HIV/AIDS...To change and uplift the world for women and all people, we need to be around to make change happen. So say that we’re in this together. Let’s protect and love ourselves.”

HIV and AIDS afflict millions worldwide and remain a major public health issue. Fortunately, there is increasing access to diagnosis, treatment, and care, according to the World Health Organization.

Actively confronting the social-based fear associated with HIV, Catriona encouraged other women to get tested by revealing that she recorded her own experience and uploaded the video on her YouTube channel.

Catriona again had a public HIV test in June in cooperation with Apicha Community Health Center to further empower those at risk to know their status.

As Miss Universe, she continued to fight stigma and raise more $4 million (P203 million) for HIV/AIDS support by participating in the AIDS Walk New York organized by Gay Men’s Health Crisis in May.

She also met in September with the Philadelphia Asian American & Pacific Islander to discuss her campaign work on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Being an ally of the LGBTQ+ community

Catriona is also a recognized supporter and friend of the LGBTQ+ community.

In October, she visited Google headquarters in New York to discuss advocating for the LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS awareness.

She also spoke and participated in one of South Africa's largest campuses “on the topic of LGBTQ+ rights and challenges facing their community.”

Learning and working with organizations that give back

Active in pursuing her advocacies, Catriona knows that collective action remains the key to realizing change, opting to work with long-standing organizations than acting alone.

"I always look forward to learning and working with organizations who are actively contributing to the community," said in her video entitled “MARANASAN: The year. The experience. The reign.”

Aside from those mentioned above, Catriona cooperated with many organizations by offering her talent as a spokesperson and her platform as Miss Universe.

These include Education Through Music, which partners with under-resourced schools; Gods Love We Deliver, which prepares and delivers nutritious meals to the incapacitated; SmileTrain, which offers free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care; and Best Buddies, which creates opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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