Miss Universe

Who is R’Bonney Gabriel, Miss Universe 2022?

Ysa Abad

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Who is R’Bonney Gabriel, Miss Universe 2022?

Miss U.S. R'Bonney Gabriel celebrates after being crowned Miss Universe during the 71st Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. January 14, 2023.  REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

The 28-year-old beauty queen makes history as the first Filipino-American candidate to win the Miss Universe title

MANILA, Philippines – R’Bonney Gabriel of the United States took home the title of Miss Universe 2022 during the pageant’s coronation night in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, on Saturday, January 14 (Sunday morning, January 15 in Manila). 

R’Bonney bested 83 candidates to be the ninth representative from the USA to win the Miss Universe title, making USA still the most decorated country in the pageant’s history.

She succeeded India’s Harnaaz Sandhu as the pageant entered a new era with new owner Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip. 

A Fil-Am beauty queen

Born to an American mother from Beaumont, Texas and a Filipino father, R’Bonney made history as the first Filipino-American candidate to win the Miss Texas USA, Miss USA, and Miss Universe pageants.

In an interview with Houston Life, R’Bonney shared that her father left Manila for the United States on a college scholarship with “only $20 dollars in his pocket” to “pave a new life for himself.” R’Bonney is the youngest and only girl among four children. 

Calling herself a “very proud Filipina Texan,” R’Bonney has been very vocal about her mixed heritage. She said that after her Miss Texas USA win, several young Filipinas have been messaging her on her social media to tell her that she inspired them to also pursue pageantry. 

According to her official Miss Universe biography, R’Bonney says her mission is “for women and young girls to see themselves in her, and feel inspired to conquer their goals by owning who they are.” The beauty queen added that she’d like to be a voice for Asian-Americans who will “open the door for more diversity and representation in society.” 

During her Miss Universe pageant stint, R’Bonney collaborated with Filipino designers for her ensembles – her evening gown during the preliminary competition and coronation night were created by Rian Fernandez, while her national costume was made by Patrick Isorena. 

Road to Miss Universe

While it might be a historic win, R’Bonney’s journey to the Miss Universe crown was not easy. 

She first joined Miss Texas USA in 2021, where she finished second after winner Victoria Hinojosa. 

In July 2022, R’Bonney participated at the Miss Texas USA pageant again, and this time, she won the title. She represented Texas in the Miss USA 2022 pageant, where she again took home the crown. 

Her Miss USA win, though, was hounded by controversy when several candidates claimed that a winner was already predetermined before it was even announced during the October 2022 coronation night. R’Bonney responded to the speculations, insisting that the pageant was not rigged. “I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win. I have a lot of integrity,” she told E! News at the time.

And as she represented the USA in the 71st Miss Universe pageant, R’Bonney proved her naysayers wrong by emerging as the pageant’s winner. 

During the pageant’s question and answer segment for the Top 5, R’Bonney was asked of the change she’d like to see in the Miss Universe organization, to which she replied with: 

“For me, I would like to see an age increase. Because I am 28 years old, and that is the oldest age to compete. I think it’s a beautiful thing. My favorite quote is, ‘If not now, then when?’ As  a woman, I believe age does not define us. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not yesterday, but it’s now. The time is now that you can go after what you want.” 

A transformational leader

Outside the pageant scene, R’Bonney is a fashion designer, model, and sewing instructor. Her Miss Universe profile described her as a “high-school volleyball player who pivoted to fashion” and has “quickly fallen in love with constructing designs with fabrics and textiles” since she was 15. 

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design with a minor in Fibers from the University of North Texas in 2018. It’s not surprising that she also designed some of the ensembles she wore throughout her pageant stints. 

Aside from being the CEO of her own sustainable clothing line, R’Bonney Nola, she is also the lead sewing instructor at Magpies & Peacock, a Houston based non-profit design house that is known for their dedication to sustainability and community impact. She also teaches sewing classes to women who were victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. 

These experiences – brought upon by having sewed for 13 years – will push her to be a “transformational leader,” R’Bonney said during the pageant’s Top 3 question and answer segment. In her winning answer, she emphasized that she will use “fashion as a force of good” so that Miss Universe will continue to be a more empowered and progressive organization. 

“It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference. We all give 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.” – Rappler.com 

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