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EXCLUSIVE: How to be you, Catriona Gray?

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Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray broke into smile when told our interview won’t have questions about saving a rainforest or the whales, but simply fun.

“Yes, I’m all for it!” she squealed with a laugh. “Let’s go!”

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray (Photos by Kevin Tristan Espiritu/ Manila Bulletin)

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray
(Photos by Kevin Tristan Espiritu/
Manila Bulletin)

Well, maybe it’s what exactly she needed. Just two hours before her sit-down interview with Bulletin Entertainment, the beauty queen was commanding a room full of local and international media, and answering Miss Universe type of questions as if she hadn’t won the title yet. Of course, she aced it all and by the time she was embracing Madame Stella Marquez-Araneta of the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. onstage, as cameras clicked away like crazy, it was clear how different it is with the queen home.

Inside our interview room where it’s quiet and relaxed, we could sense Catriona was ready to open up even more and completely dazzle with zero effort as she always does.

We looked at her and thought “This, here, is one of God’s gifts to the Philippines, then to the World, and, ultimately, the Universe.”

She looked at us, and on behalf of mere mortals, we asked: “How to be you, Catriona Gray?

• • •
What are the simple things in life that you would never give up?
“Quiet time with my parents and family. That’s important to me because it makes me who I am. How can I do my job as Miss Universe if I don’t have my values in place and be secure with myself? I will never give up the support system of my family, and my extended family because at the end of the day, things like a title come and go. But the people, the relationship that you have, carry you through the many weathers in your life.”

Catriona arrives and holds a press conference at Novotel Manila in Quezon City accompanied by Stella Marquez-Araneta

Catriona arrives and holds a press conference at Novotel Manila
in Quezon City accompanied by Stella Marquez-Araneta

Why is it important to remind the world through your clothes and your ways that you are Filipino?
“It’s just that I’m proud to be one! I want to be a Miss Philippines more than a sash. Becoming Miss Universe Philippines gave me the avenue to express my creativity and one of the facets I really enjoy is fashion. I want the creation of my gowns to be, like, an Easter Egg hunt in that, yes, it’s a beautiful dress but there is symbolism behind it, there is something about the Philippines in it. There are many things to be discovered and learn about our country and I feel that if I make people interested in our history even in a small way – because fashion is something that’s easily relatable – it would be something.

“It’s important for Filipinos to remember who we are and what we have to offer. We’re not just beautiful beaches and nice people. We are so much more than that. Our culture is so much more than that.”

What do you miss about Manila when you’re in New York and vice-versa?

“When I’m in New York I miss the warmth here. It’s cold (there), dyusko! And of course I miss my friends and family, and those moments when I can go to my favorite café and bookstores. I can’t do that anymore in the Philippines because my life has really changed.

“When I’m in Manila what I miss about New York is the sense of adventure of that city. New York is so fast-paced and you meet so many different people. Everyday is a new experience for me there because I’ve never been there for such a long amount of time. And I feel like in every area there’s something for me to discover.”

After your reign as Miss Universe, will you do movies?
“I’ve never tried acting before but I would like to do a kick-ass role! You know, I do have a black belt (in martial arts) so I’d like to do fight scenes. I don’t want to be just a pretty girl – I want to kick some butts!”

If you bump into Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach now, what would you tell her that she should’ve told you about being Miss Universe?
“She should have told me the apartment is so nice! It’s so near Central Park and Broadway.

“Pia has been very supportive. Even when I was competing, she would send me messages now and then like ‘Cat, we’re so proud of you, you’re doing such an amazing job.’ Just hearing that from a woman who had brought so much pride to the Philippines, who has walked in these steps also and has become such an inspiration to many, it’s really wonderful that she was there for me in that way.”

Catriona waves to the crowd during her grand homecoming parade on Kalaw St. in Manila (Photo by Jansen Romero/Manila Bulletin)

Catriona waves to the crowd during her grand homecoming parade on Kalaw St. in Manila (Photo by Jansen Romero/Manila Bulletin)

If there’s a Lava Walk, is there a Lava Wave?
“A Lava Wave talaga, haha! I don’t know. Like a pabebe wave, no? Well, when I wave (at people), I’m really, like, all out. But it depends on the girl. Miss Universe doesn’t teach you to sit straight or how to smile… these are authentic and genuine things that emanate from a girl. I guess when I wave it’s just all crazy hands.”

What OPM song do you listen to or Filipino movie you watch when you get homesick?
“Hmmm… that’s a good question. When I get homesick, its not to watch a movie or listen to music but just to call home. I connect more to calling a loved one, to calling a friend when I feel sentimental. Do I have a best friend? I have a lot. There are different types of friendships, and I have friends from my teens, those who helped prepare me for this journey, and friends who are not into pageantry at all.”

Did you have anything to do with Miss Vietnam’s recent visit to the Philippines?
“I didn’t. When we met up in New York on Fashion Week, she said she’s so amazed by the love and support of the Filipinos. She makes me so happy hearing that from her. When I hear it from other people, when they speak so highly of the Filipinos, I get happy. She loved her time here and I said, ‘Sayang, sana I was there.’ Pero in the future, and maybe we’ll all have a reunion. I always love telling the other contestants what to do and see and experience here in the Philippines. I hope many more Miss Universe contestants will find their way here.”

Who will play you on ‘Maalaala Mo Kaya?’
“I don’t know, the conversation hasn’t even been opened. At the moment, it’s all fan speculation, but it’s very interesting. I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that someone will be playing out my life story. But once there is a shortlist, I’d like to meet with the girls. Because they’re playing me, right? So I want to see the similarities we have and how we are. I guess whoever is the best fit will end up with the role.”

How to be you, Catriona Gray?
“I am just really a hard worker. I plan, and I am a very hands-on person. I am very headstrong.

“But also, I’ve been through a lot. I’ve felt down and frustrated too, and it’s being driven and being true to myself – so when the opportunity comes you’re ready for it – that makes me strong.”

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