Checking her phone during her photo shoot for The Post, Miss Universe Catriona Gray audibly gasped.
Turns out, Tyra Banks had given her a shout-out on Twitter, writing, “Can’t stop thinking about that #LavaWalk.” The supermodel was referring to Gray’s slo-mo runway strut that helped her nab the crown — and went viral.
“She’s just the mother of fierceness,” said Gray of Banks. “I was over the moon. That was such a compliment coming from her.”
Since the 25-year-old beauty won Miss Universe in December, she’s shot to online stardom. And in the Philippines, where pageants receive as much fervor as boxing, Gray has become a national heroine.
Her journey to Miss Universe started at a young age, but it wasn’t originally her own dream. The brunette beauty grew up in Cairns, Australia. Her father is a retired Scottish engineer and her Filipina mother is an accountant who herself once auditioned for the Miss Philippines pageant, but didn’t make it to the finals.
Instead, Gray’s mom put her daughter in local modeling competitions, and Gray won Little Miss Philippines when she was 5 years old. Still, she said, “I never had an interest in pageantry.”
A fashion photographer in Manila scouted her when she was 13, and Gray began flying to the Philippines every summer to do editorials and beauty campaigns.
“I was an only child and was a little bit sheltered,” Gray said of her teen years. But at 17 she decided to take a gap year before starting college and move by herself to Manila, where she became a full-time model and also started volunteering for Young Focus, a charity that focuses on childhood poverty.
“It was a frustrating time in my life as a young adult, and I just wanted to concentrate on other people instead of my own situation,” Gray said.