An Australian tabloid has raised heckles in the Philippines by claiming Australian “ownership” of Miss Universe winner, the reigning Miss Philippines Catriona Gray.
The paper ran a front page story featuring the headline “Miss Universe Philippines” with the “Philippines” crossed out and replaced by “Queensland” in the wake of Gray’s victory at the competition’s final in Thailand on Tuesday, beating competitors from 93 other countries, including Australia.
Gray was born in Cairns, Australia, to a Scottish father and a Filipina mother. She was schooled in Australia and moved to Manila to work as a model on completing her education.
The story quickly attracted ire on social media from across the archipelago, with a picture of the front page attracting over 20,000 shares, and almost 30,000, mostly angry, reactions on Philippine Facebook page PGAG.
MJ Sarillo pointed out that, as the child of a Scottish father and Filipina mother, the Australian paper had little grounds for claiming the victory as an Australian one, concluding in righteously indignant capitals that Gray is: “NOT AN AUSTRALIAN, nor HALF-AUSTRALIAN.”
Joyce Quinto, meanwhile, was forced to note that the paper seemed less inclined to “Australianise" Gray when she failed to win the Miss World title, again representing the Philippines, in 2016 having made the top five.
For her own part, Gray seemed in little doubt as to who she was representing in the competition. Following her victory, she told her 1.2m Facebook followers: “Philippines, what an amazing honour it has been to carry your name across my chest.”
Abu Dhabi-based Filipina teacher Bella Biad told The National: "I don't mind the Australians trying to share in some of the glory of the win, that's ok. But I really take offence at them crossing The Philippines out in the headline, that's not."
If nothing else, the sudden desire to claim Gray as a full-blooded Australian represents a welcome shift in attitude for the Australian tabloid press when it comes to the portrayal of immigrants, natives, or anyone of a non-Anglo Saxon ethnicity.