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MANILA, Philippines – The Miss Universe 2018 coronation night on December 17 in Bangkok, Thailand saw fan favorite, the Philippines' own Catriona Gray bringing home the coveted crown. (READ: Philippines' Catriona Gray is Miss Universe 2018)
The 24-year-old Catriona bested 93 other candidates from all over the world, standing out for her signature "lava" walk, and answering a question about marijuana legalization. (TRANSCRIPT: Miss Universe 2018 opening statements, Q&A, final word)
Catriona succeeds 2017 titleholder Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa, and is the fourth Filipina to wear the crown. Even before her pageant run, she has been advocating for HIV/AIDS awareness, and education, particularly for impoverished youth.
Born in Cairns, Australia to an Australian father and Filipina mother, Catriona moved to the Philippines in her late teens. She worked primarily as a model, appearing in various commercials and magazines, before entering the pageant world.
Here are some facts about the new Miss Universe:
1. She is a pageant veteran
Before becoming Miss Universe 2018, Catriona also reigned as Miss World Philippines 2016, and competed in the Miss World pageant, finishing in the Top 5. But it would appear that she has been doing pageants way before then – in 1999, she competed in the Little Miss Philippines pageant in Sydney.
View this post on Instagram Little Miss Philippines 1999, Catriona’s first ever pageant! ang haba ng leeg! Disney Princess lang? #catrionagray A post shared by Catriona Gray (@catrionauniverse) on Mar 22, 2018 at 7:34pm PDT
View this post on Instagram Relived a few childhood memories today going though some old photos! Always being a goofball and posing for pictures even then! and how cute was I in my first #LittleMissPhilippines pageant at 5 years old?...perhaps 17years is a long enough time to wait...? A post shared by Catriona Gray (@catriona_gray) on May 2, 2016 at 2:51am PDT
2. She is a trained musician
Aside from being a commercial model, Catriona is also a singer and songwriter, and even holds a master's certificate in music theory from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. She released her first single, "We're in this together" in late November, in partnership with the organization she supports, Young Focus Philippines.
3. She kicks ass not just as a beauty queen but as a martial artist
Catriona's fierceness may stem from her martial arts training in her youth. She started training in Choi Kwang Do when she was 8 years old, and earned her black belt when she was 12.
Catriona says her training taught her discipline – and still comes in handy sometimes when she models.
View this post on Instagram Guess 4 years of high kicks and martial arts come in handy sometimes #JagUltraStretch #FreeToMove #JagJeansPH #JagDenimQueen A post shared by Catriona Gray (@catriona_gray) on Nov 23, 2018 at 4:05am PST
4. Catriona's winning look is a celebration of her Filipino and Bicolano roots
Her winning gown, by designer Mak Tumang, was inspired by the Mayon Volcano in her hometown, Albay, (and also references her famous "lava" walk). Her now-iconic earcuff by Tessera Jewelry (she wore a similar design when she won the Bb Pilipinas crown in March) is a tribute to the 3 stars and sun in the Philippine flag. According to Catriona in the post-pageant press conference, the color of her gown is extra-significant, because her mother previously dreamed that she joined and won the competition wearing a red dress.
5. She also paints!
Another talent/skill in her arsenal: Catriona is also a skilled painter, and has created artwork to raise funds for her charity, the Paraiso Bright Beginnings Project.
View this post on Instagram Hey beautiful people I'm putting some of my loved artworks for display and sale with the proceeds going towards #ParaisoBrightBeginningsProject at Sede, 46 East Capitol Drive Pasig. Do drop by and take a look! Will also be partnering up with SEDE for an upcoming charity event so keep posted for the details!! ☺️ A post shared by Catriona Gray (@catriona_gray) on Apr 17, 2017 at 12:25am PDT