Texas designer R’Bonney Gabriel just made history as the newly crowned Miss USA
Filipino American history month seems to be off to a good start, especially for Miss USA winner R’Bonney Gabriel.
On Monday, the Texas model and designer became the first Filipina American woman to be crowned Miss USA in the pageant’s decades-long history. Miss North Carolina Morgan Romano was first runner-up in the ceremony held at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nev.
With the Miss USA crown under her belt (or atop her head), Gabriel will now represent the United States in the 2022 Miss Universe pageant. That competition will take place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans on Jan. 14, 2023.
In addition to being a milestone for the Filipino and Asian American communities, Gabriel is also the first Texas queen to take home the grand prize since 2008 when Crystle Stewart won the crown.
Gabriel showcased her Filipino heritage during the interview portion of Monday’s ceremony. She designed her own jumpsuit boasting floral details on mesh sleeves and a traditional Filipino silhouette.
The new arch will mark the eastern entrance to L.A.’s Historic Filipinotown, much as the twin-dragon gate over Broadway welcomes visitors to Chinatown.
“I designed this to pay tribute to my parents. My mom is from Beaumont, TX and my father is from the Philippines. They got married in Manila Philippines,” she said of her ensemble on Instagram. “I hand painted the same flower design from my mothers wedding dress onto my sleeves and tied in a traditional Maria Clara Filipina collar shape. I have immense gratitude for the opportunities my parents provided me and wanted to express my love to them through this 🙏🏼 🇺🇸🇵🇭.”
While wearing her own design, Gabriel spoke about her approach to addressing the climate crisis.
“I actually made the outfit that I am wearing and I upcycle pieces, recycle different clothing to be more sustainable in my industry, because I feel it’s my duty,” she responded to judge Soo Yeon Lee’s question. “I think that’s something we can all look for ways in our certain industries or in our homes to be sustainable as well.”
Representation matters in Hollywood. Too often, on the way to selling stories with universal themes, we lose the specifics.
Before becoming the new Miss USA, Gabriel, 28, became the first Filipino American woman to win Miss Texas USA in July. After her win, Gabriel said Filipina girls and women reached out to her on social media.
“They’re crying tears of joy because they are inspired to go after pageantry or something,” she told Houston Life. “Like I’m paving the way for them to just go after whatever they want no matter what it is.”
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