The 71st Miss Universe competition was held at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Over 80 contestants worldwide came to compete for the prestigious title of Miss Universe, with only one winner walking away with the title on January 14. Before the competition, delegates spent time getting to know each other, attending events, experiencing New Orleans culture, enduring all-day rehearsals and having one-on-one judge interviews, all of which occurred for about two weeks.
Against all other competitors, R’bonney Gabriel captured the prestigious crown. In 2022, the Houston native became the first Filipina-American woman to be crowned Miss USA.
Before pageants, Gabriel gained a love for fashion and design. She strengthened her training in fashion design at the University of North Texas in Denton. Since then, she has shared her passion. On her Instagram, you can find countless reels of her sharing incredible pieces she’s created. Before the Miss Universe Competition, she even made her swimsuit cape and interview outfit for the competition.
After being crowned Miss USA and along her journey to compete for Miss Universe, Gabriel faced many challenges that only made her stronger. After the Miss USA pageant, many took to social media to express their feelings about Gabriel and the competition, which made international news. However, Gabriel turned those challenges around and used them as motivation to capture the crown.
During the Miss Universe competition, Gabriel took to social media to express the meaning behind the interview outfit she made, titled “A Beautiful Storm.” She explained the importance by stating, “These past three months as Miss USA have come with many blessings and many unexpected challenges. There were days when I felt a dark storm over me. I had to find beauty in the dark chaos and become stronger. I hope this piece inspires everyone to always look for the blessing within the storm.”
At Miss Universe, contestants competed in multiple areas on and off stage. Some were panel interviews, onstage swimsuit and evening gown walks and onstage questions. Before the final day, contestants even got to create and show their national costume, which has been a part of the Miss Universe competition tradition for years.
For Gabriel’s costume, she took to social media to share the meaning behind her “woman on the moon” costume in her Instagram caption by saying, “On July 20, 1969, two US astronauts became the first humans to step foot on the moon, accomplishing one of the most remarkable achievements in human history … As a Houston native, where the NASA space center is located, I am proud to be from a city working to send the first female to the moon. The purpose of this costume was to inspire women in all spaces across the universe to dream big, shoot for the moon and achieve something out of this world.”
Gabriel also has a brand called “If Not Now, Then When?” an eco-friendly clothing line that has “handmade small batch pieces” created by herself. All pieces in her clothing line are eco-conscious, sustainable and good for mother earth, as stated in the R’Bonney Nola design Instagram bio.
Since her crowning, Gabriel has moved into her new Miss Universe New York apartment and completed more than 20 media interviews. The 72nd Miss Universe will be in El Salvador in 2024. More information on R’Bonney Gabriel and Miss Universe news can be found on their website.