Filipino-Americans across the USA celebrated with the crowning of Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel as the 71st Miss Universe during finals held in New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, in Louisiana, USA on Saturday (Sunday in Manila). Gabriel, born to an American mother from Texas and a Filipino immigrant from Manila, bested 82 contestants from around the world, including Miss Philippines Celeste Cortesi, who shockingly did not make the Top 16 semi-finalists’ list, ending the twelve-consecutive-year streak of the Philippines.
Gabriel, 28, graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in fashion design and now works as a fashion designer creating eco-friendly clothing. A dead ringer for Miss Asia Pacific 1993 Michelle Aldana, Gabriel was crowned by outgoing Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu.
“I would use it 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’ve been cutting down on pollution through recycled materials when I make my clothing. I choose sewing classes for women that have survived 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,” Gabriel answered when asked the Top 3 final question, “If you win Miss Universe, how would you work to demonstrate this as an empowering and progressive organization?”
Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel, a fashion designer, and Miss Dominican Republic Andreina Martinez, a model and graduate with a degree in psychology, were named first and second runners-up, respectively.
Miss Puerto Rico Ashley Carino and Miss Curacao Gabriela Dos Santos finished in the Top 5.
Rounding out the Top 16 semi-finalists were Miss Haiti Mideline Phelizor, Miss Australia Monique Riley, Miss Laos Payengxa Lor, Miss South Africa Ndavi Nokeri, Miss Portugal Telma Madeira, Miss Canada Amelia Tu, Miss Peru Alessia Rovegno Cayo, Miss Trinidad and Tobago Tya Jane Ramey, Miss India Divita Rai, Miss Spain Alicia Faubel, and Miss Colombia Maria Fernanda Aristzabal.
Miss Thailand Anna Sueangam-iam won the first Impact WayV award from the Miss Universe Organization (MUO). A special tribute was given to former Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Cryst who committed suicide due to mental health issues.
Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray served as backstage co-host with Emmy winner TV host Zuri Hal. Miss Universe 2022, hosted by Jeannie Mai and Olivia Culpo, is the first edition under the new ownership of Thailand-based JKN Global Group, headed by its founder and CEO Anne Jakrajutatip.