R’Bonney Gabriel becomes 1st Filipina American crowned Miss Universe
R’Bonney Gabriel has made history as the first Filipina American to be named Miss Universe.
“Filipinos are so happy. They are just over the moon about it,” Gabriel said Monday of the reception to her groundbreaking win on “Good Morning America.” “It’s a huge win for the community and just representation. It’s an honor.”
Gabriel’s father is from the Philippines and her parents married in the country’s capital of Manila, according to a post on her Instagram.
“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,” Gabriel told Houston ABC station KTRK in October. “I’m a very proud Filipina Texan.”
Gabriel became the first Asian American to be named Miss Texas USA and Miss USA last year, a notable milestone since contestants of color used to barred from competing in the pageants.
The 28-year-old said she is still soaking in her achievement after Saturday’s ceremony at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
“It is a blur. I just am still in shock,” the Houston resident said. “It’s really still sinking in, watching my crowning moment when I was on stage. The crowd was so loud and I was saying, I was talking to myself in my head that when they announced it, I wasn’t sure if it was me. ‘Oh, wait, is it me?’ So I have kind of a delayed reaction, like I’m still in shock. It’s amazing.”
Gabriel is one of the oldest to earn the Miss Universe crown and the age restriction — contestants must be 18 to 28 years old — is one she pointed out herself during the pageant.
“I think women, our age is always objectified and people, we think sometimes we’re too old to do things and I have people telling me they are so inspired that I started late in pageantry,” Gabriel told “GMA.” “I just said my favorite quote [is], ‘If not now, then when?’ You never feel like you’re too late. You just go for it.”
Aside from going after her pageant dreams, Gabriel is also the fashion designer behind her label, R’Bonney Nola, and a sewing instructor.
“I’m gonna use fashion as a force for good. I’m always looking for ways to do good in my industry, whether I’m teaching sewing classes or providing learning opportunities, or upcycling pieces and just raising awareness on sustainability and industry,” Gabriel added. “I’m just excited to share with the world and my talent.”