Paula Shugart: 'Catriona Gray is the essence of confidently beautiful'

MANILA, Philippines – Miss Universe Organization president Paula Shugart has nothing but good words for Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, saying that as the clock ticks, they still have so much plans for her reign.

Speaking with TFC's Balitang America on Thursday, March 21, Shugart said that the Filipino-Australian beauty queen's schedule will be busier than ever, but one thing they're really making sure of is to incorporate music into Gray's plans.

Before winning Miss Universe, Gray released a song "We're In This Together" to raise funds for Young Focus Philippines, one of the organizations she's been supporting before entering the world of pageantry. Gray recently visited a school in New York with the help of Education through Music to talk about her love for the craft.

View this post on Instagram Thank you again to @missuniverse @catriona_gray for visiting P.S. 103 yesterday! For more photos, visit our Facebook page! Link in bio! A post shared by Education Through Music - NY (@etmonline) on Mar 20, 2019 at 1:09pm PDT

"Music is her passion and to be able to take that passion and use that as a tool to help other people is something that makes her thrive," Shugart said.

Shugart said that she's proud of what Gray and former Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach have done for their respective causes, as well as for the whole MUO group.

"She (Catriona) is the essence of confidently beautiful as was Pia. Cat really – and I don't know if this is because of her prior pageant experience – she has walked into this very focused on what exactly it is that she wants to do and the change that she wants to make," Shugart said.

Miss Universe Philippines franchise

In a separate interview with the Inquirer, Shugart also clarified the report on the Miss Universe Philippines franchise.

The organization released a statement, confirming that Binibining Pilipinas Charities Incorporated (BPCI), headed by Stella Araneta, still holds the franchise – even after former Ilocos Sur governor Luis "Chavit" Singson said in earlier interviews that the franchise was with him already.

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES FRANCHISE. Paula Shugart confirms that Stella Araneta still holds the franchise of Miss Universe in the Philippines. File photo by Jory Rivera/Rappler

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES FRANCHISE. Paula Shugart confirms that Stella Araneta still holds the franchise of Miss Universe in the Philippines.

File photo by Jory Rivera/Rappler

Shugart  said Singson, who brought the 2016 edition of the pageant to Manila, will be involved with the plans of the organization. According to her, reports on the franchise  caused confusion when the MUO was acquired by American talent agency Endeavor or William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME-IMG).

"We’ve just acquired this brand. What can we do to build on it? How can you get more involved in the Philippines and maybe take that elsewhere to other countries where we’re popular like Thailand? And Endeavor has so many offices in Asia, which we’ve never had that experience before. So it was really us approaching our partners to really get involved in the brand in the Philippines and see what can we do to bring it up," she said.

Shugart said that she had conversations both with Singson and the Aranetas about expanding the Miss Universe Philippines franchise. She said she was a "big fan" of Singson, and that they had met "when he single-handedly made Miss Universe happen in the Philippines."

Shugart added she's grateful to Singson as he had brought some of the 2017 Miss Universe candidates to Manila and helped organize the charity events with Frontrow.

GRATEFUL. Paula Shugart says she is grateful to Chavit Singson for helping the organization. File photo shows Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray and the Singsons last December during their arrival in Manila. Photo by Noel Celis / AFP

GRATEFUL. Paula Shugart says she is grateful to Chavit Singson for helping the organization. File photo shows Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray and the Singsons last December during their arrival in Manila.

Photo by Noel Celis / AFP

"So we have a very, very strong partnership. He and I personally do, and I also have a very good relationship with Stella and Jorge [Araneta]. So you know, there was a lot of talking going on and Gov was always set up to bring whoever the new Miss Universe was. He was going to bring her into the Philippines for our first charity event with Frontrow and it just so happened [that] it was Catriona," Shugart said.

She said that after talking with all partners, they were still looking at what else can be done for the expansion plans.

"We’re all still talking. [With] Binibining [Pilipinas Charities], we are going to do just the one show this year but we’re still talking about what else can we do next year. Gov is going to bring the contestants to Vigan, so he’s very supportive of us. And we’re going to continue – all of us as a group – working together to see what we can do to enhance the brand and hopefully use it as a model to export to other countries as well,"she said.

Shugart did not confirm if the 2019 pageant will be held in South Korea as Singson earlier stated, but that everything was still being arranged as of this time. – Rappler.com