Get To Know Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel
Filipina-American beauty queen R’Bonney Gabriel, who represented USA, is the 71st Miss Universe titleholder
Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu of India crowned USA's R’Bonney Gabriel, as the latter was named Miss Universe 2022 during the coronation night held in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.
Hailing from Houston, Texas, United States, R’Bonney Gabriel now wears the Mouawad-crafted “Force for Good” crown, which bears an important message that should be taken by every Miss Universe entrant to heart: “In change lies the force for good.”
Besting 83 other national delegates, she is the first Filipina-American contender to win Miss USA in October of last year. She also snagged the Miss Texas USA prize in June 2022, and became the first Asian-American to hold such title.
With her family background, R’Bonney celebrates diverse cultures and all walks of life. Having been born to an American mother and a Filipino father, she has a high regard for diversity and representation.
As a fashion designer, model, and sewing instructor, R’Bonney has slowly grown into a creative and pursued a Fashion Design degree at the University of North Texas. Minoring in Fibers, she is now the CEO of R’Bonney Nola—a sustainable and eco-friendly apparel brand. The Texas native engages in community service as well, uplifting fashion as a “force for good.”
At only 15, R’Bonney started piecing fabrics and textiles together, leading her to the path that she is taking on today. She, too, is the current sewing head instructor at Magpies & Peacocks, a non-profit design studio that champions fashion sustainability and community impact by collecting scrap fabrics and discarded textiles from landfills and upcycling them into fashion collections. A recipient of the Gucci Changemakers fund, the volleyball-player-turned-fashion-maven is dedicated to inspiring women and young girls to be comfortable and confident in their own skin.
During the first round of the Q&A segment, R’Bonney Gabriel was asked the following question: “Miss Universe recently made an inclusive change, allowing mothers and married women to compete next year. What’s another change that you’d like to see, and why?”
Almost in her 30s era, the changemaker replied: “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 that 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.”
In the last question-and-answer portion alongside her Top 3 fellow Miss Universe 2022 finalists, the American torch carrier answered with a strong finish.
“I would use it [the Miss Universe platform] to be a transformational leader. As a very passionate designer, I’ve been sewing for 13 years. I use fashion as a force for good. In my industry, I’m cutting down on pollution through recycled materials when I make my clothing. I teach sewing classes to women who survived from human trafficking and domestic violence, and I say that because it is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference. 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.”
Being of Filipino kin is something that R'Bonney is also very positive about. She is hoping that her reign will elevate ties among Filipino-American communities in her homeland. "Filipinos love pageantry. To be half-Filipino, I feel like that helped me feel the energy in the crowd. The support is everything. I feel blessed. As the first Filipino-American Miss Universe, I can now be a voice, a larger voice for other girls and just show them that you need to embrace who you are. It’s so important. Embrace what makes you different," she said.
Fueled by her purpose and intent to keep in touch with her roots, R'Bonney also mentioned that she would love to visit the Philippines soon. “I was speaking with a friend a couple of months ago that’s in the Philippines. He’s a designer. I told him I would love to set up some sewing workshops and teach little girls how to sew," she starts off. "It’s all about planting the seeds and giving them the creative opportunity. I really look forward to that and I hope I have the opportunity to do that in the Philippines hopefully within the next few months.”
As for Venezuela’s Amanda Dudamel and Dominican Republic’s Andreína Martínez, they finished as first and second runners-up in the competition, respectively. Philippine bet Celeste Rabimbi Cortesi ended her Miss Universe streak earlier than expected, as she did not make it to Top 16.
American by citizenship and by title but also Filipino by heart, R'Bonney Gabriel is grateful for the Filipinos who share the victory with her, despite waving a different country's flag. “The support is everything. I feel it in my heart. I heard it in the room. It was an amazing energy. The Filipino blood is so strong. We are hardworking, we are fun, and we are determined. I am so proud to be a half-Filipina.”
Helmed by its new chairman, Thai transwoman and business mogul Anne Jakrajutatip, the previously male-run Miss Universe Organization promises to be more inclusive, make more positive impact across the globe, and “elevate all women to feel strong enough, good enough, qualified enough, and never be objectified again.” A fierce woman who knows how to turn pain into power, Anne also said in her Miss Universe coronation speech that the modern Miss U is now “led by women, owned by a transwoman, for women.”
Congratulations, Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel!
Lead photos courtesy of Miss Universe Organization and Benjamin Askinas via Miss Universe