By Associated Press
BANGKOK — The Philippines’ Catriona Gray was named Miss Universe 2018 on Dec. 17, besting contestants from 93 other countries and delighting her home nation.
Gray wore a sparkling red dress she said was inspired by a volcano in the Philippines as she was handed the crown to the delight of a roaring crowd in Bangkok that generally favored Southeast Asian contestants.
The 24-year-old singer and model said she wore red because “when I was 13 my mom said she had a dream that I would win Miss Universe in a red dress.” She said her mom cried when they saw each other after she won the competition, the 67th Miss Universe pageant.
Gray edged out first runner-up Tamaryn Green of South Africa and third-place Sthefany Gutierrez of Venezuela. She succeeds Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.
“My heart is filled with so much gratitude,” Gray said. “There were moments of doubt where I felt overwhelmed and I felt the pressure.”
Gray’s father is Australian, and she was born and grew up in Cairns, Australia. She studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Gray said during the pageant that working in a Manila slum had taught her to find beauty in difficult situations.
“If I could teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their face,” she said.
The office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was quick to congratulate the winner. Gray is the fourth Filipina to be named Miss Universe.
“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,” he said in a statement from the presidential palace. “In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work.”
This year’s Miss Universe competition included the first-ever transgender contestant, Angela Ponce of Spain. She said in a video presentation that it was not important for her to win but was more important for her “to be here.”
One of the few controversies of this year’s contest involved Miss United States, Sarah Rose Summers, seeming to mock contestants from Cambodia and Vietnam.
In a video, Summers said that Miss Vietnam pretends to know so much English, but when she is asked a question, she just nods and smiles.
She also commented on Miss Cambodia, who she said “doesn’t speak any English and not a single other person speaks her language.” She said, “Poor Cambodia.”
Summers was joined by Miss Colombia and Miss Australia in the video.
The comments sparked backlash online with some calling Summers “condescending” or “xenophobic.”
Summers later apologized.