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Miss USA denies favoritism over Fil-Am winner R'Bonney Gabriel: 'No prodding, no suggesting, no anything like that'

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Oct 12, 2022 6:16 pm

Miss USA judges and the pageant's Fil-Am winner, R'Bonney Gabriel, have spoken up regarding the controversy that Gabriel was given special treatment during the contest.

The rumors first began when Miss USA queens spoke up on social media alleging that the competition was rigged, as Gabriel was reportedly flown to one of the sponsors' resorts months before it was set.

"It's pretty clear that it was pre-recorded and she was flown out there about nine weeks ago for this experience," claimed Miss Montana Heather Lee O'Keefe in an Instagram video.

Several other queens took to social media to express their thoughts, saying that they were "humiliated" by the experience. Others alleged that Gabriel did not join the contestant retreat in June and was shown favoritism by the major sponsors and the organization.

During her crowning moment during the coronation night on Oct. 3, some queens had also walked off the stage.

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"I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win," R'Bonney said in an exclusive interview with E! News on Oct. 6, "I have a lot of integrity,” she added.

The Fil-Am winner added that she would love to talk to Miss Montana regarding the claims.

"I think there's a lot of allegations that are coming up that aren't true, and people are leading to conclusions that just simply aren't true. I want to be transparent, and I want everybody to know that there was no unfair advantage and nothing was rigged," she said.

Miss USA Organization President, Crystle Stewart, echoed R'Bonney's statement: "With the Miss Academy, every single contestant had free training through eight-week programs and group sessions."

"What was offered to each state director was the same opportunity as a state-level sponsorship as well," she stated.

Stewart also said that R'Bonney was indeed flown to the Nizuc Resort in Cancún first, but it was for winning Miss Texas USA a few months prior.

"What Nizuc did was repurpose that video once she won the competition after the pageant," Stewart said.

One of the Miss USA judges, photographer Aaron Potts, also said the competition was "very, very strict" with its judging, and there was no bias in choosing R'Bonney as this year's winner.

"It was all very, very strict in terms of how we are to interact or not interact with contestants, with family members of contestants," he shared.

"[The organization was] top-notch in terms of no bias, no prodding, no suggesting no anything like that."

Born to a Filipino father and a Texan mother, Gabriel is also a model and fashion designer who integrates her Filipino roots into her work. The 28-year-old holds a degree in fashion design from the University of Texas and owns an eco-friendly clothing line called R'Bonney Nola.