NEW ORLEANS, LA – Congratulations to R’Bonney Gabriel from Texas for winning the Miss Universe 2023 pageant! Last year, she made history twice when she became the first Asian-American to win the Miss Texas USA title in June and then the first Filipina to win Miss USA in October.
The video above is from a previous report.
Gabrielle spoke with our sister station ABC13 before leaving for New Orleans two weeks ago and said that her national win was a dream come true. To this point, it has been 14 years since Texas took home the Miss USA crown.
“It all happened so fast. When they called my name, I didn’t realize I’d won. It was probably about five seconds and I wasn’t reacting. Then I felt this wing come over me. It was just such a rush, and I tell people you kind of lose your mind because there’s so much going on. It was just pure, complete shock,” she said.
Her mom is from Beaumont and her dad is an immigrant from the Philippines. Preserving and honoring her culture has always been a priority for Gabrielle. Although she had never seen a state title holder look like her, she never let that get in the way of her confidence.
“I took this win home for my family, for my community, for Houston, for Texas and for the Asian-American community,” Gabriel said.
The Houston native wowed the judges and fans with her unique and stylish wardrobe, taking home the award for Best State Costume in an outfit inspired by the Texas Blue Hood. Her national costume, titled Woman on the Moon, is a tribute to the NASA Space Center in Houston, which is working to send the first woman to the moon.
She is known for her passion for environmental sustainability in the fashion industry. Her bio on the Miss Universe website claims she was a volleyball player in high school, turned to fashion and quickly fell in love with creating fabric and textile designs at the age of 15. In 2018, she received her BA in Fashion Design from the University of North Texas.
Currently, she works as a leading sewing instructor in Magpies and Peacocks in the EaDo neighborhood, teaching sewing classes to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. The non-profit design house is dedicated to using “fashion as a force for good” through sustainable development and social impact.
“I think when people think about fashion, they think about the surface level – beautiful clothes and beautiful people. But there’s so much more that can be done in this industry. It’s the second largest polluting industry in the world,” she said. .
Gabriel added: “When you think about how a shirt is made, there’s a lot of excess fabric that just gets thrown in the bin. So my mission is to use this excess fabric or recycle and recycle different fabrics and make new beautiful things out of them to fight the pollution problem in my industry.”
Normally, Miss USA resides in Los Angeles during her year of service, but Gabriel said she spent most of the last three months in Houston to prepare for the Miss Universe pageant. Gabriel competed alongside 83 other contestants in New Orleans on Saturday.
She is the first Miss USA to win an international title in over a decade and has moved to Thailand for a year of service. She also plans to continue her own clothing brand “R’Bonney Nola” and act as an ambassador for her platform.
“I want to be remembered as a very hardworking, unique woman who really embraced my passion for fashion. I want to be remembered for embracing who I was and just doing my best, embracing my culture and owning who I am. I hope it inspires everyone else,” Gabriel said.
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