Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel takes Miss Universe title


R’Bonney Gabriel, the first Filipino American to win Miss USA, beat out 83 other contestants to be crowned Miss Universe on Saturday night in New Orleans.

Gabriel, a Houston native, is the chief executive of a sustainable clothing line, R’Bonney Nola. She earned her bachelor’s degree in fashion design from the University of North Texas.

When asked what change she would make to the contest, she said she would raise the age limit. “I am 28 years old. And that is the oldest age to compete. And I think it’s a beautiful thing,” she said during the pageant, according to CNN.

Gabriel’s NASA-inspired costume — which was topped with a giant headpiece that looked like the moon, plus wings made of silver stars — was created by Filipino designer Patrick Isorena, according to the Philippine media.

The Miss Universe website called her “a voice for Asian Americans” who “opens the door for more diversity and representation in society.”

Gabriel has spoken before about her immigrant roots. “My dad moved to America from the Philippines on a college scholarship with about $20 in his pocket,” she said last year when she was crowned Miss USA. “I’m a very proud Filipina-American.”

The news made a splash in her father’s home country. The Philippine Star wrote about her Filipino background, while the Manila Times said Filipinos had been “rooting” for her, after their own contestant did not make the finals.

The Miss Universe first runner-up was Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel, and the second runner-up was Miss Dominican Republic Andreína Martínez.

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