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Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel takes pride in her Filipino roots, addresses rigging controversy during pre-pageant interview

By Melanie Uson Published Feb 01, 2023 8:36 pm

Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel takes pride in serving as a role model for little girls, especially Filipinos.

On Feb. 1, the Miss Universe organization dropped the closed-door pre-pageant interview of newly crowned queen R’Bonney Gabriel, where she talked about her experiences, from being able to inspire the youth up to her “dark times” when she was accused of rigging her way to the Miss USA crown. 

During the interview, the Fil-Am beauty queen was asked about the importance of diversity in the United States to which she replied, “I think it’s so important. Diversity, it really cultivates an open mindset."

“I love being able to learn about other people and how they say 'hello' differently, or even foods that are different, it really allows us to not judge," she continued.

The 28-year-old Miss Universe titleholder went on to share and take pride in her Filipino roots, which allowed her to be the representation that the little girls who “looks like her” need. 

“I’m actually the first Filipina American Miss USA and since I won, there are little girls that message me, they say they see themselves in me,” she said. “I need girls to believe in themselves, and diversity just makes every[body] feel seen  ‘cause we all wanna feel seen and heard at the end of the day.” 

As seen in her previous interviews, R’Bonney’s Filipino connection is strong in this pageant, having a Filipino team behind her during the competition, and growing up having a Filipino father.

When asked if the Filipino community has been supportive of her, the queen confirmed in delight, “They have been very supportive. As you know, I’m half Filipino, my dad is from the Philippines and he actually immigrated to America with $20 in his pocket.” 

She furthered, “He really taught me that you can pave your way to success.” 

Being a Miss Universe isn’t just all about the crown and glamour, it also entails duties and responsibilities that the true queen must fulfill. One of which is being a role model.

R'Bonney said that although she has "big shoes to fill" as a role model, she hopes her reign "shows everybody that you can be a hard worker and achieve anything you want in your own unique way like I am."

A graduate of fashion with a minor in fibers at the University of North Texas, R'Bonney was able to build her own fashion brand, R'Bonney Nola, which uses sustainable materials to create eco-friendly clothing. This is in addition to conducting sewing classes for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. 

R’Bonney’s journey to the crown wasn’t easy, though, especially the controversy she faced when she was crowned as Miss USA. At that time, the beauty queen was accused of rigging her way to winning the crown. The queen further detailed this experience during the interview.

She started, “Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing [and] I feel very blessed to be Miss USA, it was just very unexpected."

“After I won, there were just a few false allegations that it was rigged so it was detrimental to my mindset going forward for Miss USA—that it was in the public eye. It was very sad for me for people to think that I would've lie[d] my way to get here after all the hard work.” 

Nonetheless, R’Bonney managed to remain optimistic, like the true queen she is. “So, I felt like everything in life happens for a reason though, and that hardship really made me stronger,” she said,.

“I feel like this is a message for me to show everyone that no matter what people think, you can stand strong in who you are, so that’s why I’m wearing this that I made to share this story with everybody. I hope that it inspires people."