By Paulo Camacho
On one late December night in Thailand, a 24-year-old music graduate in a stunning red dress received the announcement of a lifetime:
She was the new Miss Universe.
It has been a month since the annual pageant took place in Bangkok, Thailand — a lavish affair that featured contestants representing 94 countries and territories. However, it was the stunning representative from the Philippines, Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray, that grabbed the coveted sash of Miss Universe.
Considered a heavy favorite going into the proceedings at Bangkok’s IMPACT Arena, the half-Scottish Australian-born Gray won on a combination of grace and beauty under the weight of enormous expectations. It was the culmination of a journey that began with a Filipino mother’s fabled dream of her daughter winning Miss Universe in a red dress, and ended with Catriona standing alone, sporting the Mikimoto Crown.
But it wasn’t all runway walks and timely interview questions that helped earn her the title of Miss Universe. Catriona’s love for music, as a part of her life, helped her stand out in a crowded Miss Universe field.
She grew up with an appreciation for music from a young age, particularly a love for song and dance. “There’s something about music that can just make you feel a certain way and strike a cord within you,” she said in her intro video to Miss Universe 2018. “Even if you don’t understand what the lyric is. There’s something that everyone can relate to. I love that you can connect on that level.”
Also from her appearances in Miss Universe, she said of music: “Once I started music, it was fulfilling in a way that everything else wasn’t. My mom told me that even when I was in the womb, I was dancing along to music.”
Catriona also describes music as “one of [her] greatest passions,” and it shows in both her personality, and with the work she has done already. Not only does she profess to listening to music all the time, and is proficient with the guitar, she also performed for her school’s Jazz Band as lead vocalist before college, honing her craft in singing. Furthermore, you can find a variety of song covers on her YouTube channel. She has a Master’s certificate in Music Theory from Boston’s Berklee School of Music, having studied ear training and harmony, along with a wide array of musical disciplines.
She even has a brief stint as a recording artist. Her first single, “We’re In This Together,” written by Marcus David, was made in conjunction with Young Focus International, a charity dedicated to helping children in the poorest communities of Tondo, a district in the capital city of Manila. Her beauty, both inside and out, as well as her love for music, shines through in all aspects of this video. Take a look for yourself: