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Miss Universe crowns first Filipino American winner

R’Bonney Gabriel, a Texas fashion designer, model, and teacher of sewing, has been named Miss Universe Philippines.

She was the first Filipino American to win Miss USA last year.

On Saturday, Miss Universe 71 took place in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In the past, the contest was criticized for being sexist because it included “personal statements”, in-depth interviews, and a variety of categories, including evening gowns and swimwear.


Gabriel is a former volleyball player from high school and a graduate of the University of North Texas. According to the website, Gabriel is also the CEO of R’Bonney Nola, her sustainable clothing line.

She was then asked in the final stage Q&A how Miss Universe would show that it was an “empowering and progressive organization” if she won.

The 28-year old spoke out about how she uses recycled materials in her fashion designs, and how she teaches sewing to victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

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She concluded that “everyone has something special and when we share those seeds with others in our lives, we transform them into something and use that as a vehicle to bring about change.”

Image: The contest took place in New Orleans. Pic: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Two former winners were included on the panel, along with a journalist, actress, dermatologist and fashion designer.

Miss Venezuela came in second, and Miss Dominican Republic was third.

Harnaaz of India, last year’s winner presented Gabriel with her bouquet, sash, and tiara.

The pageant paid tribute to her daughter by highlighting mental health with the mother of , former Miss USA CheslieKryst.

Miss Universe has announced a new partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It was named in Kryst’s honour.

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Anne Jakkaphong, Miss Universe Organization’s owner, praised it as a “new age” for the competition and said that “from now it’s going to run by women, owned trans women for all women across the globe to celebrate the power feminism”.

The 43-year old billionaire and transgender activist is CEO of JKN Global Group PCL. This Thai media company bought Miss Universe Organization for $20m (PS16.6m).

The rights to the pageant were owned by Donald Trump, former US president.

Ms. Jakkaphong has stated that she was inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s chat show. She has spoken often about her life as a transgender woman and is the first American woman to host a beauty contest.

The competition’s new owners have relaxed rules to allow mothers, divorced and married women to enter the market for the first-time in 70 years.


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