R’Bonney Gabriel, the first Filipino American to win Miss USA, has been crowned Miss Universe this Saturday.
The top five finalists of the Miss Universe competition, the most well-known beauty pageant in the world, represented the USA, Venezuela, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico (which competes independently of the US because its contestants are not eligible for Miss USA). More than 90 women from 86 countries took part in the pageant.
The competition, originally held by a swimsuit company in 1952, judges women in swimsuits and evening gowns, as well as on their deportment, intelligence, and cultural awareness. Contestants must be between 18 and 28, either hold a degree or a professional career, and be unmarried (that is changing in 2023).
R’Bonney Gabriel, 28, is the oldest Miss Universe to date. She comes from Houston, Texas, where she designs eco-friendly clothing using recycled materials and works as a model. She has a degree in fashion design from the University of North Texas, and has worked at a non-profit, teaching sewing and garment construction.
Gabriel has only been involved in pageantry since 2020. She was a finalist for Miss Kemah USA in 2020, and was runner-up as Miss Texas USA in 2021. In 2022, she won Miss Texas USA, and then Miss USA several months later, making her eligible for Miss Universe.
In the last stages of judging, the interview, R’Bonney Gabriel was asked how she was working to demonstrate that Miss Universe is more than just a beauty contest.
“I would use it to be a transformational leader,” she responded, citing her work using recycled materials in her fashion design and teaching sewing to survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. “It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community and use your unique talent to make a difference.”
Gabriel was crowned by last year’s Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu of India.