BANGKOK — The representative of the Philippines won this year’s Miss Universe contest Monday in Bangkok.
Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray, 24, was crowned Miss Universe 2018 in the pageant’s final round at Impact Muang Thong Thani, becoming the fourth Filipino to win the crown.
The final three, Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela all answered the same question, “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life and how would you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?
Gray answered that due to her working in Manila slums, she would try to teach people to see the silver lining in their life.
South Africa’s Tamaryn Green and Venezuela’s Sthefany Gutierrez were the first and second runners up respectively.
The final five, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela answered topical social and political questions, including ones about press freedom, #MeToo and marijuana legalization.
On the importance press freedom following the amount of jailed journalists in 2018, Puerto Rico said the media had a right to inform the public. Gray was asked about marijuana legalization.
“I’m for its medical use but not so much for recreation,” Gray answered, comparing marijuana to cigarettes and alcohol. “Everything is good, in moderation.”
For the first time, judges were all women, including Richelle Louise Singson-Michael, Filipinos aviation CEO and American Janaye Ingram, a Women’s March founder.
The top 20 were reduced to 10 after they gave a 15-second answer about a personal fact they wanted to tell the world. Vietnam talked about how she was an ethnic minority who chose an education over getting married at 14, while Canada talked about being a biomedical engineer.
The chosen 10 were South Africa, Vietnam, Venezuela, Philippines, Costa Rica, Curacao, Nepal, Canada, Thailand and Puerto Rico.
The top 20 semi-finalists – five each from Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific and a wildcard category — included Poland (a first for the country), Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Jamaica, United States, Indonesia, Brazil and Australia.
“If they ever give you a really, really important envelope, try to read it carefully,” Costa Rica riffed Harvey when asked if she had a tip for him as a fellow TV host.
“I’m good. I’m a little hungry,” Miss Universe Thailand 2018 Sophida “Ning” Kanchanarin said after getting picked.
Neither Angela Ponce from Spain – the pageant’s first transgender contestant – nor crowd favorite Tresji Sejdini from Albania made the cut.
Ninety-four countries participated, a record high in the pageant’s 66-year history. Over the past month they’ve been in Thailand doing photo ops around Bangkok, Krabi and Pattaya, including the Un Ai Rak winter fair.
This year’s pageant was the first time the final rounds were held in Thailand since 2005 and 1992. Thailand won the crown twice in 1965 and 1988, when the events were held in Florida and Taipei, respectively.
Organizers TPN Group said the contest cost 500 million baht to host this year.
Gray’s appearances on stage were all met with deafening cheers and screams for the Filipino-Australian beauty, especially when she wore her high-slit ruby evening dress.
Gray, 24, was also Miss World Philippines in 2016. She’s the first Filipino to win both Miss World Philippines and Miss Universe Philippines.
TV host Steve Harvey hosted the event.
“I have been working on my respectful Thai bow,” Harvey said, before wai-ing and saying “sawasdee krap” and “khob khun krap.”