First Filipino-American R’Bonney Gabriel, a fashion designer, model and sewing instructor from Texas wins Miss USA, was crowned Miss Universe on Saturday night.Gabriel closed her eyes and clasped hands with runner-up Miss Venezuela, Amanda Dudamel, at the moment of the dramatic reveal of the winner, then beamed after her name was announced.
Thumping music rang out, and she was handed a bouquet of flowers, draped in the winner’s sash and crowned with a tiara onstage at the 71st Miss Universe Competition, held in New Orleans.
The second runner-up was Miss Dominican Republic, Andreina Martinez.
In the Q&A at the last stage of the competition for the three finalists, Gabriel was asked how she would work to demonstrate Miss Universe is “an empowering and progressive organisation” if she were to win.
“I would use it to be a transformational leader,” she responded, citing her work using recycled materials in her fashion design and teaching 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 continued. “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 Miss Universe, Gabriel is a former high school volleyball player and graduate of the University of North Texas.
Nearly 90 contestants from around the world took part in the competition, organisers said, involving “personal statements, in depth interviews and various categories including evening gown & swimwear.”
Miss Curacao, Gabriela Dos Santos, and Miss Puerto Rico, Ashley Carino, rounded out the top five finalists. Last year’s winner was Harnaaz Sandhu of India.
Former title holder Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu of India crowned her successor in a glittering ceremony at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
Contestants from over 84 countries were whittled down to just 16 as the only two contestants from the Middle East — Miss Universe Bahrain Evlin Abdullah Khalifa and Miss Universe Lebanon Yasmina Zaytoun — did not make the cut.
Over the course of Saturday night’s final competition the contestants were narrowed down to just three hopefuls from the Dominican Republic, the US and Venezuela.
Miss Ukraine’s outfit for the Miss Universe pageant’s national costume competition was a “Warrior of Light” ensemble commended worldwide for its symbolism.
Viktoria Apanasenko, representing the war-torn country at the Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans on Jan.14, revealed a stunning multilayered motif with ornate, oversize blue and yellow wings.
The outfit was complete with a weapon (sword) and body armour. An Instagram post on Miss Ukraine’s page said: “The ‘Warrior of Light’ costume symbolises our nation’s fight against darkness. Like Archangel Michael, who defends Ukraine with a sword, it protects us.”