Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel wins the Miss Universe Pageant

NEW ORLEANS — R’Bonney Gabriel, a fashion designer, model and sewing instructor from Texas who pageant officials say is the first Filipina American to win Miss USA, was crowned Miss Universe on Saturday night.

Gabriel closed his eyes and clasped the hands of Miss Venezuela runner-up Amanda Dudamel as the winner was dramatically revealed, then beamed after her name was announced.

Deafening music blared and she was presented with a bouquet of flowers, draped in the winner’s sash and crowned with a tiara on stage at the 71st Miss Universe pageant, held in New Orleans.

The second runner-up was Miss Dominican Republic, Andreina Martinez.

In the Q&A during the final stage of the competition for the three finalists, Gabriel was asked how she would work to demonstrate that Miss Universe is “a challenging and progressive organization” if she were to win.

“I would use it to be a transformational leader,” she replied, citing her work using recycled materials in her fashion design and teaching sewing to survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.

“It’s so important to invest in others, to invest in our community, and to use your unique talent to make a difference,” continued Gabriel. “We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds in other people in our lives, we transform them and use them as a vehicle for change.”

According to Miss Universe, Gabriel is a former high school volleyball player and a graduate of the University of North Texas. A short biography posted on the organization’s website indicates that she is also CEO of her own sustainable clothing line.

Nearly 90 contestants from around the world took part in the competition, organizers said, involving “personal statements, in-depth interviews and various categories, including evening dress & 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 from India.

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