Miss Universe Catriona Gray decided to represent the Philippines even though she was born and raised in Australia.
“Straight out of high school, I wanted to rediscover my roots and also, I didn’t know what to pursue in university, I didn’t know what I wanted to be, I was having that young adult crisis,” she explained.
Gray was then motivated to volunteer for Young Focus Philippines, which provides access to education for kids in Tondo, Manila.
“I just saw that there was this whole platform in the Philippines, and when beauty queens speak, Filipinos listen,” she said. “And I thought wow how much more could I do combining the platform of pageantry with the work that I do for my cause.”
The Miss Universe competition is slowly breaking down barriers in the pageant community — having recently featured the first trans contestant from Spain — but Gray hopes that they expand their contestant range even further to welcome different body types, cultures and walks of life. She also wants to use her crown in inspire the younger generation to believe in their dreams.
“We need to not only give them access to an education, but also educate parents and the community on how to kind of foster these dreams in the kids,” she said.