She succeeds Harnaaz Sandhu of India, and is the first to wear the “Force for Good” crown made by Mouawad in partnership with the Miss Universe Organization under its new owner, Anne Jakrajutatip.
During the first round of question-and-answer portion of the pageant, Gabriel was asked what change she’d like to see in Miss Universe and why.
She answered: “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 yesterday but it’s now. The time is now that you can go after what you want.”
In the final Q&A, all the Top 3 contestants were asked how they would work to demonstrate that the Miss Universe is an empowering and progressive organization should they win the competition.
“Well, 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’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,” she said.
Gabriel is the fourth Asian American and first Fil-Am to be named Miss USA, while Miss USA 1962 Macel Wilson, who is said to have grandparents from the Philippines, is considered the first Asian Pacific American Islander to win the crown.
The 2022 Miss USA pageant featured two other Pinays: Suzanne Perez of Miss New Mexico and Miss Hawaii Kiana Yamut.
R’Bonney said in interviews prior to the pageant that she loved fashion as early as she was only 15. She graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design in 2018.
She is a fashion designer, model, and currently, the CEO of her own sustainable clothing line, R’Bonney Nola.
R’Bonney collaborated with Filipino fashion designers for her gorgeous outfits during the Miss Universe pageant.
R’Bonney is the lead sewing instructor at Magpies & Peacocks, a Houston-based non-profit design house that is known for their commitment to sustainability and community impact. She teaches sewing classes to women who were victims of human trafficking and domestic violence.
Her evening gown during the preliminaries and the coronation night were created by Rian Fernandez, while her national costume was made by Patrick Isorena.
Gabriel’s first and second runners-up are Amanda Dudamel of Venezuela and Andreína Martínez of Dominican Republic, respectively.
While the proud Filipino American beauty was victorious, the Philippines’ representative, Filipino-Italian Celeste Cortesi, ended her Miss Universe quest early on, as she fell to land in the Top 16, the first time the Philippines missed a semi-final placement in the Miss Universe since the stint of Venus Raj in 2010.
The Miss Universe Philippines Organization, however, was still all praises for Cortesi after her early exit in the pageant.