THROWBACK: Catriona on being Aussie by birth, moving to PH by choice

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 20 2018 10:27 PM | Updated as of Dec 20 2018 10:56 PM

Catriona Gray, who represented the Philippines in Miss Universe, arrived home on December 19 after winning the international pageant. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Australians, and not just Filipinos, are celebrating Catriona Gray’s Miss Universe win, as revealed by a Brisbane tabloid’s now-viral front-page headline crossing out “Philippines” as the beauty queen’s home country.

Gray, who was born in the coastal city of Cairns in Far North Queensland, has brought pride to her birthplace following her stellar showing in Miss Universe. The city mayor is even reportedly planning to have a reception for Gray, should she visit there during her reign.

This appears to be a non-issue for Filipino pageant fans — save for what some have referred to as the “offensive” headline of The Courier-Mail, which has sparked a debate on social media.

Several of Gray’s followers pointed out that while she was born and raised in Australia, she ultimately chose to represent the Philippines in the international pageant. Others also noted that Gray’s participation was uniquely and decidedly Filipino, from her advocacy (education of Tondo children), her training (from pageant-savvy Pinoys), to her outfits (patriotic elements, such as her Mayon gown in the finale). These factors, they said, comprised the winning performance, not Gray being Australian by birth.

Gray’s mother, Normita Magnayon, hails from Albay, while her father, Ian Gray, is Scottish-Australian. She grew up in Cairns, and moved to Manila in 2011 to pursue a modeling career here.

Fresh from her crowning as Miss Universe Philippines early this year, Gray was made to address her roots in a televised interview on “Tonight with Boy Abunda.” Her answer at the time, it would appear now, is also the precise words that would settle the argument surrounding her upbringing and choice of country to represent.

Asked how she would identify herself between being Australian-Filipino or Filipino-Australian, Gray chose the latter, and went to explain: “Even though I was born in Australia, that’s not my choice. It was more of my parents’ choice.”

“My decision to come to the Philippines at age 18 just after I graduated high school was like a self-discovery journey for me,” she went on. “[It was] my first step into figuring out who am I — what do I want to do with my life? — and just putting myself out of my comfort zone.”

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“I chose to come here,” she pointed out, “and I came over on my own money. I wanted to prove to myself na kaya ko ‘to. I can do this.”

Gray, with dozens of TV commercials and modeling stints on print and the runway, proved just that — and eventually went the extra mile as she joined pageants, and brought home the Philippines’ fourth Miss Universe crown.