Catriona Gray was a 13-year-old with braces when she first stepped inside a Madame Tussauds in London and zoned in on the wax figure of pop star Cristina Aguilera.
“I was so shocked because she was a lot shorter than I was,” she giggles at the memory; the 5’10” Gray looked up to the 5’1” Aguilera throughout her teens. “To me, she’s one of the greatest voices of our generation. That’s what makes this such a pinch-me-moment”
She gestures to her likeness – her Miss Universe 2018 coronation moment in wax, heels barely cooled from the heat of her signature lava walk, complete with a bespoke reproduction of her now-famous lava gown by Filipino designer Mak Tumang, made specifically for Madame Tussauds.
“I grew up thinking it was reserved for the A-list, global superstars and I feel like I’m just someone who has an awesome job,” she admits. The other Filipinos immortalized by Madame Tussauds are Miss Universe 2016 Pia Wurtzbach and boxing champ Manny Pacquiao in Hong Kong, whose wax figures Gray will join in six months.
The Catriona we meet in Madame Tussauds Singapore is one who has just achieved a dream — but also someone just at the beginning.
She completed the sittings for her wax figure in 2019 during a pre-pandemic world, only three months after she passed on the crown. Side by side, their similarity is stunning, in that brilliant way Madame Tussauds has been adept at capturing likenesses since 1835, but Gray admits that she has changed, too — just as we all have since the pandemic hit.
“I feel like my body has grown into womanhood now that I’m 28. I’ve learned to embrace that because it’s normal and a woman’s body is beautiful and should be celebrated even as it shifts and changes through the years,” she notes.
So when Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu received backlash for the changes in her body, Gray couldn’t stay silent. “It makes me feel sad that we’re going backwards and we’re back to putting emphasis on how a woman looks.”
She tells YStyle: “I’ve always thought of the Miss Universe platform as more than an image. I proactively fight to redefine this during my participation in the pageant system, in that I’ve always said, ‘Yes, I may be tall, I may be your perception of beautiful, but here’s something I’m passionate about. Let me showcase through a spoken piece the beauty of my country. Let me draw your awareness through my advocacy work or the things we stand for.”
During the pandemic, Gray amplified causes and gave back to the community, taking part in feeding programs, advocating for cultural groups with the NCCA and doing an educational series called Kultura 101.
Today, visitors to Gray’s likeness in Madame Tussauds Singapore will not only be able to take pictures with her but also get to learn how to do the lava walk from her in a video.
Her upcoming hosting work involves training the spotlight on the next P-pop superstar in the reality talent show Top Class in June. A recording artist before her pageant days, she shares that, “Yes, new music is in the works.”
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This time, heading into the new normal, she draws strength from something more vital. In the fickle market of social currency, Gray gets validation from her core group.
“I still continue to find a lot of my identity in the work that I do. But the pandemic really just called into question, what’s important to me, what will you remember later on? Will it be the job you’re working on now, or is it the people you celebrate with?” she muses. “I took the time to check in on the people that I love, to prioritize them in any way that I can, even if it’s from afar.”
Today, visitors to Gray’s likeness in Madame Tussauds Singapore will not only be able to take pictures with her but also get to learn how to do the lava walk from her in a video. Maybe they will learn that physical beauty is only one kind of strength among many — and we all have our unique strengths to harness and embrace.
Imagine, for instance, what that can do for a teenager facing a new set of insecurities from growing up with social media, or an adult coming to terms with becoming more than what she looks like.
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Madame Tussauds Singapore offers a 50-percent discount for all healthcare workers in Singapore when they book their tickets at this link with the promo code HEALTH50. Valid medical/healthcare ID is required upon entry.
Fully vaccinated Filipino tourists can now enter Singapore courtesy of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) program.