Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel wins Miss Universe Competition

APTOPIX Miss Universe Pageant Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel reacts as she is crowned Miss Universe during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
APTOPIX Miss Universe Pageant Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel walks on stage after being crowned Miss Universe during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe pageant, in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant The final three contestants react during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. Left to right are Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel, Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel and Miss Dominican Republic Andreina Martinez. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Universe 2022 Harnaaz Sandhu gestures to the crowd before a new Miss Universe was chosen at the 71st Miss Universe pageant, in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel answers a question during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel points on stage after being crowned Miss Universe at the 71st Miss Universe pageant, in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel reacts after being crowned Miss Universe during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe pageant, in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel reacts after being selected as one of the final three contestants in the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel reacts after being selected as one of the final three contestants in the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Dominican Republic Andreina Martinez reacts after being selected as one of the final three contestants in the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant The final five contestants are announced during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. Left to right are Miss Dominican Republic Andreina Martinez, Miss Curacao Gabriela Dos Santos, Miss Puerto Rico Ashley Carino, Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel and Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, the new owner of the Miss Universe Organization, speaks onstage to present the ImpactWayv Challenge Award during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Australia Monique Riley walks onstage with fellow contestants for the start of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Ukraine Viktoriia Apanasenko competes in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss South Africa Ndavi Nokeri takes part in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, in New Orleans on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Uruguay Carla Romero takes part in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, in New Orleans on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Saint Lucia Sheris Paul takes part in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, in New Orleans on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Korea Hanna Kim competes in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Netherlands Ona Moody competes in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Haiti Mideline Phelizor competes in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Switzerland Alia Guindi competes in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Singapore Carissa Yap competes in the evening gown competition during the preliminary round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
APTOPIX Miss Universe Pageant Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel, back to camera, is hugged by other contestants after being crowned Miss Universe at the 71st Miss Universe pageant, in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss USA R' Bonney Gabriel, left, and Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel wait to hear which one will be crowned Miss Universe, which was Miss USA, during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Canada Amelia Tu takes part in the evening gown competition during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Trinidad and Tobago Tya Jane Ramey takes part in the evening gown competition during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss South Africa Ndavi Nokeri takes part in the evening gown competition during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Miss Universe Pageant Miss Laos Payengxa Lor takes part in the evening gown competition during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe pageant, in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — R’Bonney Gabriel, a fashion designer, model and sewing instructor from Texas who competition officials said is the first Filipino American to win Miss USA, was crowned Miss Universe on Saturday night.

Gabriel closed her eyes and clasped hands with runner-up Miss Venezuela, Amanda Dudamel, at the moment of the dramatic reveal of the winner, then beamed after her name was announced.

Thumping music rang out, and she was handed a bouquet of flowers, draped in the winner’s sash and crowned with a tiara onstage at the 71st Miss Universe Competition, held in New Orleans.

In the Q&A at the last stage of the competition for the three finalists, Gabriel was asked how she would work to demonstrate Miss Universe is “an empowering and progressive organization” if she were to win.

“I would use it to be a transformational leader,” she responded, citing her work using recycled materials in her fashion design and teaching sewing to survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. “It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community and use your unique talent to make a difference.”

Rights to the pageant — once partly owned by former President Donald Trump — were bought last year by a Thai business tycoon and transgender activist for $20 million from IMG Worldwide LLC, a New York-based sports and talent marketing company.

Chakrapong “Anne” Chakrajutathib, who controls JKN Global Group Public Co. Ltd., is a reality show star in Thailand who is outspoken about being a transgender woman.

Chakrajutathib said when the purchase was announced in October that she wanted to “evolve the brand for the next generation.”

According to Miss Universe, Gabriel is a former high school volleyball player and graduate of the University of North Texas. A short bio posted on the organization’s website said she is also CEO of her own sustainable clothing line.

“We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds to other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change,” Gabriel said.

Nearly 90 contestants from around the world took part in the competition, organizers said, involving “personal statements, in depth interviews and various categories including evening gown & swimwear.”

The second runner-up was Miss Dominican Republic, Andreina Martinez.

Miss Curacao, Gabriela Dos Santos, and Miss Puerto Rico, Ashley Carino, rounded out the top five finalists.

Last year’s winner was Harnaaz Sandhu of India.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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