MANILA -- The president and national director of Miss Universe Colombia on Thursday apologized to Catriona Gray amid the controversy over the way she was introduced as a judge of the pageant.
In a signed statement posted by Miss Universe Colombia on Instagram Stories, Natalie Ackerman acknowledged the mistake of showing "Garay" as Gray's surname during the pageant's TV broadcast, saying it was "due to some language barrier."
She also mentioned that it was not their intention to focus solely on Gray's Australian roots.
"The translated language that was sent for introduction is, 'Born in Australia, from the Philippines who is Miss Universe 2018.' It is honestly part of the cultural differences as here in Colombia, we regard the value of unity and cross-cultural importance," Ackerman said.
The Miss Universe Colombia national director went on to assure Gray, her management, and Filipinos that "there was no malice intended" in the mistakes they made.
"We invited Catriona in the first place because we believe in Filipinos and having a personal Dubai-based Filipino friend who is like a brother to me. I have always admired the Filipino culture and kindness of the people from the Philippines," she said.
Ackerman also hoped that Gray "will not take this matter against us and forgive us and our management," adding that they are looking forward to visiting the Philippines soon.
During her introduction in the recently concluded Miss Universe Colombia pageant, the host described Gray, in Spanish, as "Australian by birth" who "represented the Philippines" in Miss Universe 2018.
Shortly after the pageant, Gray shared a photo of her with the word "Filipina" on Instagram Stories.
The timing of her post was not lost on her fans, who criticized on Twitter what they branded as a "disrespectful" introduction.
This was not the first time that Gray's Australian roots have become the subject of intrigue. During the early part of her Miss Universe reign, her being half-Australian similarly sparked discussion among pageant fans.
Gray was born in the coastal city of Cairns in Queensland in Australia. Her father, Ian Gray, is reportedly a Scottish-born Australian, while her Filipino mother, Normita Magnayon, hails from Albay.
In 2011, at age 18, Gray moved to the Philippines to pursue a modeling career.