Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters crowns Miss Philippines Catriona Gray (Photo courtesy of Miss Universe)

The Philippines’ Catriona Gray was crowned Miss Universe 2018 at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand on Monday, December 17.

The fans went wild as 2017 Miss Universe Demi Leigh Nel Peters from South Africa awarded the Miss Universe Phoenix Mikimoto crown to the 24-year-old Filipino-Australian who was up against 93 countries.

Miss Venezuela Sthefany Gutierrez finished as second runner-up, while Miss South Africa Tamaryn Green, first runner-up. Other candidates included in the top five were Miss Puerto Rico Kiara Ortega and Miss Vietnam H’Hen Nie.

Gray was asked during the final question on what she thinks is the most important lesson she learned in her life and how would she apply it to her time as Miss Universe.

“I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is poor and very sad. And I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty of it and look in the beauty of the faces of the children and to be grateful,” Gray said.

“And I will bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. And this, I think if I can teach people to be grateful, we can have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster and children will have smiles on their faces,” she added.

Gray proudly incorporated the beauty of her hometown Albay, Bicol as she walked the stage gracefully showing off her Mayon volcano inspired red gown by Mak Tumang. She paired it with her conversation piece “Three Stars and a Sun” ear cuff that earned the admiration of many for being a homage to the Philippine flag.

Despite her difficulty to walk in her national costume, she beautifully showcased the Philippines’ three main islands while carrying a lantern of history. She also highlighted the Filipino civilization before the Spanish occupation with her ‘pintados’ body suit.

“Welcome to the sisterhood, Catriona Gray,” Miss Universe wrote in an Instagram post (Photo courtesy of Miss Universe)

The reigning beauty wowed the public as she made a slow-motion twirl in a hot pink bikini and a long gown in flame hues that symbolized a mythical Filipino bird. Her fire orange and yellow preliminary gown stood out from a sea of sheer and gold tones, symbolizing both the Ibong Adarna, which can cure with a song and the rising phoenix from which the Miss Universe crown by Japanese jeweler Mikimoto was patterned after.

Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo congratulated Gray as he spoke of how she exude the radiance of a Filipino woman.

“Ms. Gray truly made the entire Philippines proud when she sashayed on the global stage and showcased the genuine qualities defining a Filipina beauty: confidence, grace, intelligence and strength in the face of tough challenges,” Panelo said.

The Philippines has made at least Top 10 at Miss Universe since Venus Raj’s breakthrough performance in Las Vegas in 2010. This year, the country’s Miss International bet, Ahtisa Manalo placed first runner-up while Celeste Cortesi finished top 8 in Miss Earth.

The new Miss Universe has over one million followers on Instagram and her photo on the Miss Universe Facebook page has been liked or loved by over 600,000 users, the most for any candidate, as of this writing.

Gray becomes the fourth Filipina to win the title after Gloria Diaz (1969), Margarita Moran (1973) and Pia Wurtzbach in (2015).

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