December tends to be the golden time of the year for the beauty pageant scene, as this month is the general timeframe wherein the Miss Universe pageant, one of the so-called “Big Four” beauty competitions and the second-oldest of them, is held. The 67th Miss Universe pageant being held at the closing of 2018 happened this Monday, December 17 in Bangkok, Thailand. Already it has achieved a record high of 94 participating countries and territories around the world, surpassing the 92 contestants from last year. And finally, after some fierce but overall friendly competition, a Miss Philippines wins the Miss Universe crown anew, only three years after the last one.
CNN Philippines reports that on this Monday morning in Bangkok (Sunday night elsewhere), the 66th Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa passed on her crown and title to Filipina-Australian Catriona Gray, 24-year-old model, singer and TV personality who has already made her country proud before in another Big Four pageant, placing in the Top 5 of the 2016 Miss World pageant. This time, Catriona will not be denied, and she has won the Miss Universe honor for the Philippines just three years after Pia Wurtzbach’s eventful triumph in 2015.
Catriona’s second foray into the international beauty pageant scene has found her in a news-making Miss Universe competition. Among her fellow contestants was Spain’s Angela Ponce, the first transgender woman to vie for this particular crown. There was also friction when the American bet Sarah Rose Summers had some mean things to say about the competitors who were not native English speakers. Through it all Catriona came through with a grace and poise both natural and finely practiced. Her uncommon catwalk technique described as a “live slow-motion” turn earned high praises from such luminaries as the legendary supermodel Tyra Banks.
The progression of Catriona Gray through the pageant stages, from Top 15, to 10, to 5, showed a mixture of well-deserved natural dazzle and some strategic choices. Her “Ibong Adarna” inspired evening gown held its own during the pageant preliminaries; and she was easily picked out of the crowd for wearing her red gown among her mostly white-garbed fellow top-placers. Catriona also played on continuity and playful superstition by wearing her distinctive “Philippine sunray” earrings which she designed herself, and a variation of which she wore during the Binibining Pilipinas pageant that earned her spot for Miss Universe in Bangkok.
From the Top 5 hopefuls that included Vietnam and Puerto Rico, Catriona and her fellow contestants from South Africa and Venezuela were chosen to place. In the final phase of the pageant, Venezuelan Sthefany Gutiérrez won Second Runner-up and South African Tamaryn Green got First; with a measure of pride in his voice, now-four-time pageant host Steve Harvey declared another Filipina as Miss Universe, and this time he did not flub it as with Pia Wurtzbach on his first outing way back in 2015. Congratulations and Mabuhay to Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray, the fourth Miss Universe title-holder from the Philippines. We are proud of you; the country is proud too.
Images from Inquirer.net, ABS-CBN News