Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel crowned Miss Universe

On Saturday night, the title of Miss Universe was awarded to Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel, a fashion designer, and model from the state of Texas.

Ms. Gabriel, who is 28 years old, participated in the 71st Miss Universe pageant, which was held in New Orleans. She faced off against approximately 90 contestants from all over the world. On stage, she put on the Miss Universe sash and crown and took a bouquet of flowers as cries of “U-S-A” filled the arena. 

Gabriel defeated Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel and Miss Dominican Republic Andrena Martnez to win the coveted title. Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu handed over her crown to Gabriel as she handed over the Miss Universe title to her successor.

Texas’ fashion designer, model, and sewing instructor is the first Miss Universe winner in ten years. Olivia Culpo was the last Miss USA to win the title in 2012.

After winning Miss USA in 2022, she progressed to the Miss Universe competition, becoming the first Filipino American to hold that title, according to pageant organizers.

“I would use it to be a transformational leader,” she replied, before going on to talk about her work with recycled materials in her fashion design and how she teaches sewing to survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.

“It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference,” Gabriel added. “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.”

According to her pageant background, Ms. Gabriel played volleyball in high school and went on to study fashion and design at the University of North Texas. Her bio states that in addition to being the head sewing instructor at a non-profit design studio, she is also the CEO of her own sustainable apparel line, R’Bonney Nola.

During the competition, Gabriel also stated that she hopes Miss Universe will allow women over the age of 28 to compete.

“I am 28 years old, and that is the oldest age to compete,” she said during the competition. “And I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

“If not now, when?” says my favorite quote. Gabriel went on. “Because as a woman, I believe age does not define us.”

She went on to say: “It’s not tomorrow. It’s not yesterday. But it’s now. The time is now that you can go after what you want.”

This is the first time that the Miss Universe contest has been staged after a change in ownership of the organization. Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, CEO of JKN Global Group, became the first woman in Miss Universe’s 71-year history to own the organization after the company was purchased by JKN Global Group in October 2022 for the price of $20 million.

According to a story that was published by Variety in the past, the Thai businesswoman who is also an advocate for transgender rights detailed her goals for the organization in a press statement that was issued to announce the transaction.

When asked about their goals for the company at the time, Jakrajutatip stated, “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.”

Gabriela Dos Santos, who represented the island of Curacao, and Ashley Carino, who represented Puerto Rico, rounded out the top five contestants.

The winner from the previous year was Harnaaz Sandhu of India.

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