Editor’s note (10/4/22): A previous version of this article stated that R’Bonney Gabriel is the first Asian American Miss USA — however, that distinction belongs to Macel Wilson. We regret the error. We have updated the story to reflect that R’Bonney Gabriel is the first Filipino American Miss Texas USA.
R’Bonney Gabriel, the first Filipino American Miss Texas USA, was crowned the winner of Miss USA.
After being named the first Asian American to claim the Miss Texas USA title in July, Gabriel, a 28-year-old fashion designer, went on to defeat Miss North Carolina Morgan Romano and Miss Nebraska Natalie Pieper for the Miss USA title.
Elle Smith, who holds the Miss USA 2021 title, crowned Gabriel at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada, on Monday night.
Gabriel will represent the U.S. at the upcoming 71st Miss Universe pageant, on Jan. 14, 2023, in New Orleans.
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“Oh my gosh, it’s an honor,” Gabriel told Houston Life. “I’m getting messages on Instagram and just social media of Filipina girls and women telling me they’re so excited, they’re so happy. They’re crying tears of joy because they are inspired to go after pageantry or something. Like I’m paving the way for them to just go after whatever they want no matter what it is.”
Gabriel’s father moved to the U.S. from Manila when he was 19 years old. He eventually met Gabriel’s mother, who comes from Beaumont, Texas, and they got married in Manila.
Gabriel believes that the Miss USA title brings a “big responsibility” to share her multicultural background and inspire others to embrace their identities.
“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,” Gabriel told ABC News. “I’m a very proud Filipina Texan.”
During the Miss USA Q&A round, Gabriel, who was wearing a Maria Clara-inspired outfit, was asked how she will address climate change.
“I am a fashion designer, I actually made the outfit I’m wearing in, I upcycle pieces and recycle different clothing to be more sustainable in my industry because I feel it’s like my duty,” she answered. “So, I think that’s something you can look for ways in our certain industries or in our homes to be sustainable as well.”
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The 28-year-old previously graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in fashion design. She currently works as a model and designer creating eco-friendly clothing. She owns the brand R’Bonney Nola, which offers handmade pieces created from sustainable materials.
She also works with the Houston nonprofit Magpies and Peacocks, where she teaches sewing to women survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.
“I think it’s all about using my passion to not only share with people but give back and make an impact,” Gabriel told Houston Life. “I want to expand the sewing classes that I’m already doing. I think everybody needs to grow up with an abundance of opportunities because it helps them find their purpose and their passion in life.”
Similarly, Filipino American Averie Bishop also made history in June when she became the first Asian American woman to be crowned Miss Texas America. The law school graduate from North Dallas will be competing for the title of Miss America on Dec. 15 in Connecticut.
In 1962, Macel Wilson of Honolulu, Hawaii, became the first Asian American to win Miss USA. As her great-grandparents came from the Philippines, Wilson also became the first Miss USA of Filipino descent.