R'Bonney Gabriel makes history as first Filipino-American to win Miss USA

R’Bonney Gabriel is the first Filipino-American to hold the Miss USA title. (Photos: Miss Texas USA, R’Bonney Gabriel/Instagram)
R’Bonney Gabriel is the first Filipino-American to hold the Miss USA title. (Photos: Miss Texas USA, R’Bonney Gabriel/Instagram)

Filipino-American R’Bonney Gabriel will be the representative of the United States at the 71st Miss Universe pageant to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana on Jan 14, 2023.

This was after a historic feat of being crowned Miss USA 2022 at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada, on Tuesday morning, October 4 (Philippine time).

Gabriel’s winning answer in the question-and-answer round was about the value of sustainability amid climate change.

“I am a fashion designer. I actually made the outfit I’m wearing. I upcycle pieces and recycle different clothing to be more sustainable in my industry because I feel it’s my duty,” Gabriel said. “So I think that’s something we can all look for in our certain industries and in our homes — to be more sustainable.”

The 28-year-old beauty queen also made history as the first Asian-American to win the Miss Texas USA title in July this year.

R'Bonney Gabriel won the Miss USA costume show wearing a costume inspired by the Texas state flower bluebonnet and designed by Patrick Isorena, a fashion designer in Quezon City, Philippines. (Photo: Miss Texas USA)
R'Bonney Gabriel won the Miss USA costume show wearing a costume inspired by the Texas state flower bluebonnet and designed by Patrick Isorena, a fashion designer in Quezon City, Philippines. (Photo: Miss Texas USA)

Filipino heritage

Despite achieving a historic milestone, Gabriel does not forget to honor her Filipino roots, a cultural identity that she considers as a “big responsibility.”

“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,” she said in an interview with ABC News. “I’m a very proud Filipina Texan.”

In an Instagram post, Gabriel also shared how she made her own outfit for one of the interviews for Miss USA, paying homage to her parents’ multicultural background.

“My mom is from Beaumont, TX and my father is from the Philippines. They got married in Manila, Philippines. I hand painted the same flower design from my mother's wedding dress onto my sleeves and tied [it] in a traditional Maria Clara Filipina collar shape,” the model and fashion designer wrote.

“I have immense gratitude for the opportunities my parents provided me and wanted to express my love to them through this,” she added.

In 2018, Gabriel completed her degree at the University of North Texas in Denton. She currently manages the Houston-based independent fashion brand R’Bonney Nola. She also works for the non-profit organization Magpies & Peacocks, where she holds sewing sessions.

Another Pinay making waves in int’l pageantry

Apart from Gabriel, the 25-year-old Filipino-American Averie Bishop also made headlines in June as the first Asian-American to be hailed Miss Texas America (a different competition from Miss Texas USA) over 85 years of the beauty pageant’s establishment.

Filipino-American Averie Bishop is the first Asian American woman to be crowned Miss Texas. (Photo: Bludoor Studios)
Filipino-American Averie Bishop is the first Asian American woman to be crowned Miss Texas. (Photo: Bludoor Studios)

“Now that I have become the thing that I dreamed of becoming, other young girls, other women from the Filipino community, from the AAPI community can look at me, look at R’Bonney, and think to themselves, I can do it too,” Bishop told ABC News.

“Representation saves lives,” the beauty queen also said in an interview with Narcity. “I convinced myself for the longest time that I did not deserve to be Miss Texas because I never saw anyone who looked like me represent our state,” she added.

Bishop will go on to compete in Miss America on December 15.

Meanwhile, Gabriel will face a fellow Filipina beauty queen, Miss Universe Philippines 2022 Celeste Cortesi, in the global Miss Universe pageant this coming January.

Lé Baltar is a Manila-based freelance journalist, covering entertainment and lifestyle stories for Yahoo Philippines. Follow them on Twitter @baltarle for latest news and updates. The views expressed are their own.

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