R'Bonney Gabriel, the first Filipino American Miss USA, is crowned Miss Universe

R'Bonney Gabriel, the first Filipino American Miss USA, is crowned Miss Universe

R'Bonney Gabriel from the United States was crowned the 71st Miss Universe on Saturday, Jan. 14. Last year, she was the first Filipino American to win the title of Miss USA.

Gabriel bested 1st runner-up Amanda Dudmel from Venezuela and 2nd runner-up Andreína Martínez from the Dominican Republic in the contest. The pageant took place in New Orleans where 84 women from around the world competed for the title.

Gabriel is a native of Houston and the CEO of R'Bonney Nola, a sustainable clothing line. She earned her bachelor's degree in fashion design from the University of Texas and said that her father immigrated from the Philippines "with about 20 dollars in his pocket" she said last year when she was crowned Miss USA. "I'm a very proud Filipina American."

"As a voice for Asian-Americans, she opens the door for more diversity and representation in society and was honored to be published in Vogue Philippines," said the Miss Universe website of Gabriel. "R’Bonney’s mission is for women and young girls to see themselves in her, and feel inspired to conquer their goals by owning who they are."

A shadow was cast on Gabriel's Miss USA win last year after accusations of favoritism prompted an investigation. At the time, Gabriel told NBC News she was grateful to be Miss USA.

"It’s been a dream of mine. Obviously, it’s been kind of a rocky start. But I’m really looking forward to the year ahead and expanding on my platform," she said.

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In a standout moment from last night's pageant, Gabriel wore a NASA-inspired costume that celebrated the moon landing. The over-the-top getup featured a scale-sized moon as part of her headdress and she held an American flag to complete the look.

Viktoria Apanasenko, Miss Ukraine, also stood out for competing while her country is being invaded by Russia. She donned a warrior costume, complete with a sword inspired by the archangel Michael, the guardian of soldiers, according to Insider.

When asked what she would change about the Miss Universe pageant, Gabriel responded that she would like to see age range increased.

"For me, I would like to see an age increase because I am 28 years old. And that is the oldest age to compete," she said in the pageant. "And I think it’s a beautiful thing. My favorite quote is ‘if not now, then when?’ Because as a woman, I believe age does not define us."

Currently, contestants must be between the ages of 18 and 28 to compete. But big changes may be in the works since Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, a transgender businesswoman and reality star bought the pageant this past fall.

"We seek not only to continue its legacy of providing a platform to passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions, but also to evolve the brand for the next generation," Jakrajutatip said in a press release.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com