Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel crowned Miss Universe

R’ Bonney Gabriel from the United States was crowned the 71st Miss Universe on Saturday night.

Gabriel, who became the first Filipino-American to win Miss USA last year, took the crown ahead of Amanda Dudamel of Venezuela and Andreína Martínez of the Dominican Republic.

The pageant was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, with 84 women from around the world competing for the crown.

Saturday night was the final day of competition, with eliminations narrowing down the number of finalists until the final two remained.

When Gabriel entered the Top 5, she was asked, “Miss Universe recently made an inclusive change that allows moms and married women to participate this year. What’s another change you’d like to see and why?”

Gabriel replied that she hoped the contest organizers would raise the age limit for the contestant.

“For me, I’d like to see an age increase because I’m 28 years old. And that’s the oldest age to compete. And I think it’s a beautiful thing. My favorite quote is ‘if not now, then when?’ Because as a woman, I believe age doesn’t define us. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not yesterday — but it’s now. The time is now,” she said.

Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel will be crowned at the Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans on January 14, 2023.

Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel will be crowned at the Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans on January 14, 2023. Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Born in Houston, Gabriel is a model, fashion designer and sewing instructor who prioritizes the environment in her work.

Earlier in the pageant, Gabriel wore a red-orange cape inspired by a rising phoenix with the maxim “if not now, then when”, which she painted herself. The words are inspired by her father’s advice to act on goals, dreams and desires.

In the final question and answer section of the competition, the top 3 contenders were asked how they would work to demonstrate Miss Universe as a powerful and forward-thinking organization if they won the title.

Gabriel said she would use the platform to be a “transformational leader” and highlighted her passion as a force for good in the fashion industry by reducing pollution and using recycled materials in garment making.

“I teach sewing to women who have survived human trafficking and domestic violence. And I say that because it’s so important to invest in others, invest in our community and use your unique talent to make a difference,” said Gabriel.

“We all have something special and when we plant those seeds for other people in our lives, we transform them and use that as a vehicle for change.”

This year’s pageant was first organized by JKN Global Group PCL, a Thailand-based media distribution company, after tycoon and transgender rights advocate Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip bought the Miss Universe Organization for $20 million in October.

Jakkaphong has been outspoken about her experiences as a transgender woman and is also the pageant’s first female owner.

She appeared on stage to present the award ImpactWayv Challenge winner of Anna Sueangam-iam of Thailand, honoring her social welfare commitments.
Miss Thailand had made waves in the preliminaries of the pageant in a dress made from soda tablets – a tribute to her humble beginnings and her parents’ work as garbage collectors.

An earlier version of this article misidentified Gabriel. She is the first Filipino-American to win Miss USA.

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