R'Bonney Gabriel won the Miss Universe competition on Saturday in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Gabriel wore a jumpsuit designed to resemble a thunderstorm during the Miss Universe preliminaries.
She faced backlash after winning the Miss USA competition, which contestants said was rigged.
R'Bonney Gabriel designed an outfit to reflect the "ups and downs" of her Miss USA reign during the Miss Universe preliminaries.
On Saturday, Gabriel became the first Miss USA to win the annual Miss Universe competition since Olivia Culpo clinched the crown in 2012. Gabriel, a 28-year-old fashion designer, chronicled her journey by sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses of her handmade pageant outfits on Instagram.
One stand-out ensemble was a dark blue jumpsuit designed to resemble a thunderstorm that she wore to the Miss Universe preliminary. Gabriel revealed during a separate interview tweeted by journalist Dyan Castillejo that the jumpsuit reflected the "ups and downs" she experienced after winning Miss USA in October 2022.
"Thunderstorms are dark, they're chaotic, and it was just a reflection of my time as Miss USA," Gabriel said. "These last three months, there were ups and downs. There were many challenges, and I was forced to look for the beauty in darkness."
Gabriel added that she sewed the outfit herself and the process took around 50 hours.
Gabriel's Miss USA win was clouded in controversy after several contestants said they believed the competition was rigged
Insider's Anneta Konstantinides reported in October 2022 that more than a dozen Miss USA 2022 contestants believed the organizations showed favoritism towards Gabriel. The tensions became public after Gabriel won and many fellow contestants walked off the stage instead of staying to congratulate her. The women said there were multiple conflicts of interest between Gabriel and Miss USA's national sponsors.
"A lot of the girls felt like it was the organization's plan from the beginning for R'Bonney to win, no matter who else was competing," Mikala McGhee, Miss Missouri, told Konstantinides.
Following the competition, the Miss Universe Organization suspended Miss USA president Crystle Stewart after launching an official investigation.
Amid the controversy, Gabriel denied receiving favoritism during an October 2022 interview with E! News.
"I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win," Gabriel told the outlet. "I have a lot of integrity."
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