Catriona Gray from the Philippines claimed the Miss Universe crown for 2018 on Monday, beating contestants from 93 other countries.
The 24-year-old Filipina-Australian pipped South African Demi Leigh Nel-Peters for the top spot, becoming the fourth Filipina to bring home the coveted title. Miss Venezuela, Sthefany Gutiérrez, rounded out the top three at the contest in Bangkok.
Thailand’s own Sophida Kanchanarin made it to the final 10, to huge cheers from the home crowd, but did not progress further.
I can't put into words the overwhelming gratitude I feel today. South Africa, I could feel your love and support on the Miss Universe stage and I am so thankful for you.
I am so proud to be South African.
— Tamaryn Green (@TamarynGreen) December 17, 2018
“My heart is filled with so much gratitude. There were moments of doubt where I felt overwhelmed and I felt the pressure,” said Gray, who wore a red and orange dress that was inspired by Mount Mayon, a volcano that erupted this year.
Gray was asked during the contest about her views on legalising marijuana and replied that she supported it for medical uses.
After she was crowned, Gray told reporters the question was “definitely relevant” and “an active topic”, in an apparent reference to the war on drugs in the Philippines that has killed thousands of Filipinos and caused international alarm.
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.
Miss South Africa, Tamaryn Green (24) was the first runner-up, followed by Miss Venezuela, Sthefany Gutiérrez (19).
Ahead of Monday’s final, much attention was on Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, the first transgender contestant in the competition’s history.
“I’m competing because it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl,” Ponce told Time ahead of the competition. “I’m showing that trans women can be whatever they want to be: a teacher, a mother, a doctor, a politician and even Miss Universe.”
Unfortunately for Ponce, however, she failed to make the top 20.