R’Bonney Gabriel: The First Filipina-American to Win Miss Universe


Shannon Pharr, Staff Writer

This year marked the 71st anniversary of the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, and history was made when Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel was crowned Miss Universe, becoming the first ever Filipina-American to win. Not to mention, she was the first Miss USA to win in a decade. Born in Houston, Texas in 1994, Gabriel is a graduate of the University of North Texas where she studied fashion design and minored in fibers — a notoriously difficult class in which she devoted hours of her time to succeed in. She now runs her own fashion line and works for a nonprofit fashion business in New York. She combines her interests in fashion designing and the need for sustainability by creating environmentally-friendly clothing and accessories through recycled materials. To the panel of judges, Gabriel stood out the most when she modeled a cape made out of plastic bottles, representing her hope for sustainable fashion. Her love for science and discovery was demonstrated when she also modeled an outfit dedicated to NASA’s Apollo 11, as well as the Artemis program planning to send the first woman on the moon. Though she has received criticism for her unique array of design, she has made it clear what her aspirations and goals for the future are.

Ever since the beginning of the Miss Universe competitions, the oldest having enroll was 27 years-old. Born in 1994, Gabriel was among the oldest contestants to compete. When questioned regarding her values relating to the competition, she argued that Miss Universe should not be restricted to the current age limit. In her own words, Gabriel said, “my favorite quote is: ‘If not now, then when?’ Because, as a woman, I believe age does not define us.” She has proven that age is only a number as she began modeling in pageants only two and a half years prior to being crowned Miss Universe. Talk about determination and effort! These ambitions likely come from making her family and community proud. This can be seen as Gabriel has used her voice to raise awareness of the beauty of Filipinos and Asians as a whole, including how they deserve more recognition in society for their hard work.

Raised in Texas, she loves the Southern charm of the state. However, she hasn’t restricted herself from speaking out against what the majority of the population believes in. Highlighting this is Gabriel’s belief against the ban of abortions in her state and that women deserve the support and choice in having one. Following the Uvalde school shooting, she discussed the idea of promoting safety while not limiting the choice of owning guns. She emphasized the importance of community when she declared that Texans must use their voices to prevent guns from being handed over to questionable individuals. This encompasses introducing mental-health checks and red flag laws to inhibit irresponsible behavior from gun owners. Ultimately, Gabriel has already established herself as a shining light on worldwide issues by reaching her audiences with inspiration and the potential for change.

“It’s just a huge honor to the first Filipino-American. It’s not only a win for me, it’s a win for my family and a community and all the women and little girls who are messaging me. I really just hope this brings a message of inspiration and hope that women and young girls, they can be the first to do anything. Everybody should not be scared to be a trailblazer.”