In a livestream on the Miss Universe YouTube channel, Catriona Gray addressed issues affecting mental health in the pageant world and called on fans, delegates, and international organizations to do their part to make the space safer and more positive for everyone.
The 2018 Miss Universe winner paid tribute to the late Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, who struggled with high-functioning depression before her untimely death on Jan. 30.
She highlighted how pageantry currently lives online, which is both a good and bad thing.
"Most of our platforms are now elevated to exist almost solely, if not for the most part, on social media, and it's great. It allows me as a representative to reach out to an audience to have an impact, to have their voices heard. But it also gives millions of people access to an individual," Gray said.
"There are two different sides of pageantry, there's either the really positive side—I feel empowered, I feel confident, I feel like I have a voice, I have a platform. And then there's the other side where I feel pressured, I've been the subject of bullying, shaming, I've been pulled down. I just think it's a really sad thing that it's so polarizing in that way," she continued.
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Acknowledging that trolls and naysayers will always exist in the realm of pageantry, the singer called on fans, international organizations, and delgates to do their part in being mindful of mental health.
"If you're a fan of pageantry, please know the difference and the boundary between feedback and outright bashing," the Filipina beauty began. "Derogatory terms, harsh critique, and unkind words are better left unsaid."
Gray added that she herself has been a victim of such negative speech online and said it can take a toll when the comments are in the hundreds.
"To organizational bodies and even pageant communities that exist online, please take a stand. Do not tolerate that type of commentary on your platforms. There are certain tools that you can utilize, filtering words or having social media managers that filter out the really below-the-belt, terrible comments. Just make the stand that this is not tolerable in our community," she said.
In addressing her fellow representatives and future delegates, Gray suggested they can reach out to fans of theirs who are actively putting down other contestants—something that she has done in the past.
"I encourage you to privately message them and just take the time to say 'Hey, I really appreciate that you're supporting me but please I hope that you would not use this platform to put down another contestant. Please just lift each other up.'"
If you think you, your friend, or your family member is considering self-harm or suicide, you may call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 1553 (Luzon-wide, landline toll-free), 0966-351-4518 or 0917-899-USAP (8727) for Globe/TM users, or 0908-639-2672 for Smart users.