Gabriel R' Bonney from the USA, was crowned as the Miss Universe 2022 on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, making it the United States' first triumph in ten years after Olivia Culpo in 2012, according to Insider.
The popular beauty pageant was held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, with 84 contestants from around the world competing for the crown. In the end, Gabriel received the crown from her predecessor, Harnaaz Sandhu, winner of the contest in 2021, making her the 71st Miss Universe recipient.
"It all happened so fast. When they called my name, I didn't realize I won,” Gabriel said. “Then I felt that sash come over me. It was just such a rush of feelings and I tell people you kind of black out because there's so much going on. It was just pure, utter shock really.”
The results also represent the ninth victory for the country overall, making it have the most victories with Venezuela at second with seven crowns. Miss Venezuela, Amanda Dudamel became the First Runner-Up while Andreína Martínez, Miss Dominican Republic ended up being the second runner-up of the 71st Miss Universe Pageant 2023.
According to Emily Austin, a sports commentator who judged the pageant, Gabriel was chosen because she was "very well-spoken" and "beautiful."
The beauty contest was hosted by presenter Jeannie Mai and 2012 pageant winner Olivia Culpo. It was also headed by Thai billionaire, Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, the first woman owner of the pageant.
A Thai media distribution company, JKN Global Group, organized the pageant for the first time this year after tycoon and transgender rights advocate Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip bought the Miss Universe Organization for $20 million in October.
While the pageant was held in 2023, it corresponded to Miss Universe 2022, which was postponed to avoid competing with the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The crown that Gabriel won is called 'Force for Good.’ and is crafted by the Lebanese jewelry brand Mouawad. It has 993 precious stones and a 45.14-carat sapphire. It is worth $5.3 million.
As a result, the top three winners will have to commit a year to the contest organization and head to Thailand, where the world headquarters of the contest are now located.
R' Bonney Gabriel-The New Beauty Queen Has Filipino Roots
Gabriel, born in San Antonio, Texas, is a model and fashion designer who runs her own label, R'Bonney Nola. She is 170 centimeters tall and a graduate of the University of North Texas. She specializes in sustainable methods and eco-friendly materials in her fashion design career. She also teaches sewing to domestic violence survivors.
“I teach sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence,” Gabriel said to CNN. “And I say that because it is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference.”
According to Gabriel, she strives to continue setting an example in helping others who are in need as a current representative of Miss Universe. She believes that “we all have something special and when we plant those seeds for other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change."
Her father, Remigio Bonzon 'R. Bon' Gabriel, is a Filipino immigrant who came to the country to study psychology at the University of Southern California. Her mother Dana Walker is a U.S. citizen.
"My dad moved to America from the Philippines on a college scholarship with about $20 in his pocket. He wanted to pave a new life for himself. He met my mom in Texas, who is a country woman from Beaumont,” she told ABC News. “I'm a very proud Filipina Texan."
She made history twice in 2022 when she became the first Asian American woman to win the title of Miss Texas USA in June and then the first Filipina to win Miss USA in October. She brought Miss USA to Texas after 14 years.
"I took that win home for my family, for my community, for Houston, for Texas, and for the Asian American community," Gabriel said.
The Miss Universe website called Gabriel “a voice for Asian-Americans” who “opens the door for more diversity and representation in society.” Gabriel won the hearts of both the competition judges and people around the world with her many talents and achievements.
This young Texan will represent the organization's updated policies, which focus on concepts such as gender equality and women's rights. The new administration points out that it is a competition "made by women, for women."
This year’s Miss Universe pageant allowed married women and mothers to compete for the first time in its 70-year history.
Allegations Miss Universe was 'rigged'
The win of Gabriel as Miss Universe has caused outrage on social media. The majority of the public is unhappy with the decision and considers it unfair that the US representative prevailed over the Venezuelan candidate.
"Coincidence? I don’t think so," said one fan on Twitter while another wrote: "Not gone lie….Miss USA was not my Miss Universe winner!! bro that s**t rigged."
The decision came as a surprise after Amanda Dudamel became the favorite among viewers and social media followers. Fans complained on social media that the competition was fixed, calling it a "fraud". The trend for #rigged on Twitter has gone viral.
The Miss Universe Organization called these accusations "absurd” with the organization issuing a statement on Jan. 16 denying the allegations two days after the crowning.
“The false rigging allegations are absurd and distract from the incredible milestones our organization and the delegates experienced this weekend," the Miss Universe Organization said. "Instead of focusing on unfounded statements, we will continue to shine a light on global women’s empowerment, inclusiveness, diversity, and transformational leadership.”
Another controversy sparked as the new Miss Universe is at the top of the age limit, 28, set by the competition. “Delegates must be at least 18 years of age and under 28 years of age on the date, the National competition commenced,” the official website reads. The organization responded by saying that Gabriel “won fairly” and that “other aspects of the investigation remain ongoing.”
Amy Emmerich, the CEO of the Miss Universe Organization, also termed the allegations of rigging ‘false’. “She is the rightful Miss Universe. I look forward to this much attention being focused on her non-profit work as well,” she said.
Emily Austin, a judge for the pageant, told Fox News Digital the accusations are "infuriating." "Being a judge, nobody would know more than me that it was completely not rigged," He said.
It is not the first time Gabriel has faced criticism. She was accused of “favoritism” by other contestants back in October 2022 when Miss Texas was crowned Miss USA. Miss Montana USA, Heather Lee O'Keefe, and many other competitors claimed the event was rigged.
"Most of the Miss USA contestants feel very strongly that there was favoritism towards Miss Texas USA and we have the receipts to prove it." said Heather Lee O'Keefe
On her win as Miss USA, Gabriel called these allegations false. "I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win,” she said in an interview with E! News The Rundown. “I have a lot of integrity.”
Moreover, the contestant from Ukraine was not happy at all with the participation of Miss Russia in the pageant. People have also blamed the Miss Universe authorities who allowed Miss Russia to participate in the Pageant by accusing them of not having morals.
Ukraine’s contestant for Miss Universe, Viktoria Apanasenko, told The Daily Beast it was "terribly painful" to be at the pageant alongside Miss Russia. "I am more than grateful to Miss Universe for their support, but I am not sure the organizers understood what it felt like for me to be standing and smiling on the same stage with Miss Russia who was wearing a red dress, the color of blood," she said.
Like the previous editions, The 2023 edition of Miss Universe was also full of drama and controversies between participants and the fandom. It is unknown what will occur in the next season, but the next edition of Miss Universe will be held in El Salvador in 2023 according to the organization.
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