Miss Philippines wins 2018 Miss Universe crown

Model becomes fourth Filipina to wear crown

Miss Philippines was crowned Miss Universe yesterday in Bangkok, the fourth time the country has won the international beauty pageant and the second in three years, after Miss Pia Wurtzbach's victory in 2015.

Miss Catriona Gray, a Filipino-Australian model, 24, finished first ahead of Miss South Africa Tamaryn Green, 24, and Miss Venezuela Sthefany Gutierrez, 19, in the glittering televised event hosted by US comic Steve Harvey and US model Ashley Graham.

"My heart is filled with so much gratitude. There were moments of doubt where I felt overwhelmed and I felt the pressure," said Miss Gray, who wore a red and orange dress that was inspired by Mount Mayon, a volcano that erupted this year.

She was asked during the contest about her views on legalising marijuana and replied that she supported it for medical uses.

After she was crowned, Miss Gray told reporters the question was "definitely relevant" and "an active topic", in an apparent reference to the controversial war on drugs in the Philippines.

In the final Q&A round, she earned applause describing her work in the slums of the Philippine capital Manila, which 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.

She told reporters she would like to expand her work with an organisation in the Philippines that promotes education on HIV and Aids.

"A few years ago, I lost a close friend to health complications with HIV," she said.

"So spreading awareness on that cause and encouraging people to get the simple test and knowing their status is definitely one of my first projects that I would like to pursue."

Miss Gray - a student of music theory - beat more than 90 contestants from around the globe in the 67th instalment of Miss Universe, which was held in the Thai capital's Impact Arena.

During the competition, which was broadcast live, candidates were asked questions on press freedom, refugees and the #MeToo movement.

This year's event drew positive feedback for themes of inclusivity and an all-women panel of judges made up of business leaders and former Miss Universe title-holders.

Miss Spain's Angela Ponce made history as the first transgender candidate in a competition once owned by US President Donald Trump, whose administration has attempted to block military recruitment of transgender people.

She added that she wanted her appearance to be empowering and she hoped for a "new generation of human beings who are raised a lot better, more tolerant and respectful".

But issues of tolerance and respect took centre stage when Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers appeared to poke fun at Miss Vietnam and Miss Cambodia on social media for not being able to speak English.

The comments went viral with Miss Summers later posting an apology on Instagram, saying she did not "intend to hurt" her fellow competitors.- AFP/REUTERS