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R’Bonney Gabriel, the first Filipino American winner of Miss Texas USA, was crowned Miss Universe 2022 over the weekend.
Gabriel, 28, bested 85 other contestants from around the world to win the 71st Miss Universe pageant at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on Saturday night.
“The support is everything," she said. "I feel it [in] my heart. I heard it in the room. It was an amazing energy. The Filipino blood is so strong. We are hardworking, we're fun and we're determined, and I'm so proud to be half-Filipina.”
During the final Q&A section of the competition, Gabriel faced Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel and Miss Dominican Republic Adreina Martinez.
Gabriel was asked how she would show that Miss Universe is “an empowering and progressive organization” should she win the title. In her response, she mentioned becoming a "transformational leader."
As a very passionate designer — been serving 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 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 to other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change.
Born in Houston to a Filipino American father, Remigio Bonzon Gabriel, and an American mother, Dana Walker, Gabriel is no newcomer to beauty pageants.
She was one of the top 5 finalists of Miss Kemah USA 2020 before participating in Miss Texas USA 2021, where she competed as Miss Harris County and finished first runner-up.
A year later, she joined the same competition and made history as the first Filipino American to win Miss Texas USA.
In response to the controversy, Gabriel then told E! News that the pageant “was not rigged.”
“I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win,” she continued. “I have a lot of integrity.”