Houston native R’bonney Gabriel is the new Miss Universe

Houston native R’bonney Gabriel is the new Miss Universe

Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel attends the 71st Miss Universe pageant at the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 14, 2023.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

R’Bonney Gabriel, a 28-year-old from Houston, was crowned at the 71st Miss Universe pageant on Saturday, competing as Miss USA. The model and designer beat Venezuela’s Amanda Dudamel and Dominican Republic’s Andreína Martínez, who were also in the top three, for the coveted title. The pageant was held in New Orleans, with 84 women from around the world competing for the crown.

In October, Gabriel made history when she became the first Asian-American as well as the first woman of Filipino descent to win Miss USA. She was also the first Filipina to win Miss Texas. A 2018 graduate of the University of North Texas, Gabriel runs her own independent clothing label out of Houston called R’bonney Nola. She is also a sewing instructor at the Houston-based non-profit Magpies & Peacocks, which collects and reuses post-consumer clothing, scrap textiles and accessories diverted from landfills to create sustainable clothing.

: Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel Miss USA R’bonney Gabriel and Miss Dominican Republic Andreína Martínez speak during the 71st Miss Universe Pageant at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on January 14, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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During the pageant’s final question-and-answer segment Saturday night, the top three candidates were asked how they would work to demonstrate Miss Universe as an empowering and progressive organization if they win the title. Gabriel responded that she would use her platform to be a “transformational leader” and highlighted how she uses fashion as a force for good by reducing pollution through the use of recycled materials when making her clothes.

“I teach sewing classes to women who have survived human trafficking and domestic violence,” Gabriel said. “And I say that because it’s 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 for other people in life ours, we transform them and we use it as a tool for change.”

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