Miss USA 2022 winner R’Bonney Gabriel has shared more behind-the-scenes details about her crowning moment amid allegations that this year’s beauty pageant was rigged.
In a recent interview withContestants typically approach the winner and hug them, Jones explains in her video. However, that did not happen to Gabriel during the recent beauty pageant, which was held at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada, on Oct. 3.
“Extra,” Gabriel, 28, explained why her fellow contestants abruptly left the stage after she was announced as this year’s winner – a moment former Miss USA contestant Jasmine Jones found suspicious.
“I think there is some questions of did the girls not really want to come after me and give me a hug because usually when you get crowned all the girls give you a hug,” Gabriel, the first Filipino American Miss Texas USA winner, told “Extra.”
“I walked forward to what we call the bubble, which was the front of the stage. … But I think what people didn’t know was that production told them not to come forward to the bubble only because the night before somebody actually fell off that bubble. So it was for safety reasons.”
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Cheating claims started spreading after Miss Montana Heather Lee O’Keefe alleged in a TikTok video that this year’s Miss USA pageant was rigged in Gabriel’s favor. She also claimed to have spoken with other contestants, and that most of them “feel very strongly that there was favoritism towards Miss Texas USA, and we have the receipts to prove it.”
Although she did not give any specific details, Miss New York Heather Nunez also hinted in her Instagram Stories that she and other contestants felt “humiliated.”
Responding to the allegations, Gabriel told “Extra,” “I would just tell everybody that I would never want to go into a competition knowing that it was already handed to me. I would have never worked so hard and I would never disrespect any of the other contestants.”
Crystle Stewart, president of the Miss USA Organization and a former Miss Texas USA herself, also denied the allegations, saying that she would never “rig a competition” that she herself “fought so hard to win.”
“The allegations against the Miss USA Organization are misleading and against everything I stand for personally and professionally,” Stewart, 41, told the New York Post. “As the first African American woman in this leadership role I take this position with all seriousness and regard.” O’Keefe, 25, shared a screenshot of Stewart doing Gabriel’s hair during the beauty pageant, something that the Miss USA winner denied in an interview with “E! News: The Rundown” on Friday. Gabriel explained that the viral photo was shot after she was announced as this year’s winner.“Unfortunately, it looks like that happened maybe before I won,” Gabriel said, “but that was my official Miss USA headshot photo shoot after I won.”
She also explained during the interview that after exiting the stage, she “went back to the girls, [and] they all hugged me.”
Amid the allegations and following a “thorough deliberation,” the Miss Universe Organization announced it would be suspending Stewart’s company The Miss Brand Corp, which produces the beauty pageant. Miss USA will now operate under the Miss Universe Organization as they conduct a “comprehensive, third-party investigation” led by the law firm Holland & Knight, MUO President Paula Shugart and CEO Amy Emmerich said in an email sent to the pageant directors.
As for her plans following her Miss USA win, Gabriel told “Extra” she hopes to help women “build confidence and their future and career.”
“I’ve worked with women in Houston that have survived from domestic violence and human trafficking, and I teach them sewing classes to build confidence and build their future and career. … And I think that’s the impact I want to create,” she said.