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FilAm eco-fashion warrior R’Bonney Gabriel wins Miss Universe 2022

STILL a win for the Philippines.

United States of America’s R’Bonney Gabriel was crowned Miss Universe 2022 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, on Saturday, January 14 (Sunday morning, Philippine Standard Time).

Gabriel is the first Filipino-American to win the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant and the ninth woman from the US, next to Olivia Culpo, to win the title.

Venezuela’s Amanda Dudamel was hailed the 1st runner-up while Dominican Republic’s Andreína Martínez won the second runner-up.

Gabriel bested over 83 women worldwide, including the Philippine bet for the competition Celeste Cortesi.

Prior to the announcement of the winners, Gabriel’s father was seen cheering for her in the top 3.

Who is R’Bonney Gabriel?

Gabriel’s father is Remegio Bonzon “R.Bon” Gabriel, a full-blooded Filipino who migrated to the US at the age of 25 to study for a doctorate degree at the University of Southern California, while her mom is a native of Texas.

In 2018, Gabriel graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in fashion design and a minor in fibers. 

From being a high-school volleyball player, she pivoted to fashion. She started sewing at the age of 15, and fell deeply in love with creating things out of fabrics and textiles. She took up Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design with a Minor in Fibers in 2018.

After graduating, she worked as a fashion designer’s intern in New York City.  Now, she is a CEO of her own sustainable clothing line, R’Bonney Nola. She is also the lead sewing instructor at a non-profit design house that advocates for “Fashion As a Force for Good” through sustainability and community impact. She teaches sewing classes to women who survived human trafficking and domestic violence.

The 28-year-old Gabriel made history in December 2021 when she became the first Filipina-American to win Miss Texas USA. 

Before entering the Miss Universe Competition, she had been modeling for six years.

Controversy after Miss USA

She may have won the hearts of the 5 million Filipino-American community in the US, but her victory was marred with controversy.

Many fans noticed that her fellow contestants did not rush to her side when she was named Miss USA.  Later, contestants told the media that they felt that the contest was rigged to Gabriel’s favor.

The Miss Universe Organization later suspended the organizers of the Miss USA pageant. It took over the Miss USA program and hired a third party investigator to look at the contestants’ allegations that the pageant was fixed.

Gabriel had denied to E! that the Miss USA pageant was rigged:  “I want to start by saying it was not rigged because I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win. I have a lot of integrity.”

Winning answer

During the question and answer portion, Gabriel was asked: “If you win Miss Universe, how would you work to demonstrate this as an empowering a progressive organization?”

“Well, I would use it to be a transformational leader as a very passionate designer, [I have been] been selling for 13 years. I use fashion as a force for good. In my industry, I’m cutting down on pollution through recycled materials. When I make my clothing, I teach sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence. And I say that because it is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference. We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds for other people in our life, we transform them, and we use that as a vehicle for change,” she said.

Transcript of the top 3 winning answers

Question: If you win Miss Universe, how would you work to demonstrate this as an empowering a progressive organization?

Answers:

Dominican Republic: I understand the Miss Universe Organization is looking for an ambassador, somebody who is able to communicate a message. I have dedicated women’s rights for as long as I can remember, it’s been my actual day every single day. I’m here to demonstrate us no matter where you come from your background is not defined you in the terminations and I will show that by be working every single day showing my initial determination. Thank you

USA: Well, I would use it to be a transformational leader. As a very passionate designer been selling for 13 years. I use fashion as a force for good. In my industry, I’m cutting down on pollution through recycled materials when I make my clothing, I teach sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence. And I say that because it is so important to invest in others invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference. We all have something special and when we plant those seeds for other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change.

Venezuela: If I did to win Miss Universe, I will follow the legacy that many women across the universe has showed to be part of this organization, because Miss Universe has demonstrated that they choose women who inspire with their messages, transform with their actions, and that’s precisely what I would like to do. I’m a fashion designer by profession, but I’m a designer of dreams as a woman.

What lies ahead of Gabriel?

Gabriel will be moving to a luxurious New York apartment along with a cash prize amounting to $100,000. She will also be traveling around the world to fulfill her duties and represent the organization in achieving the causes they are championing.

Banner Photo Credit: Missosology

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