R’Bonney Gabriel from the United States was crowned the 71st Miss Universe on Saturday night.
Gabriel, who last year became the first Filipino-American to win Miss USA, took the crown ahead of Amanda Dudamel from Venezuela and Andreína Martínez from the Dominican Republic.
The pageant was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, with 84 women from around the world competing for the crown.
Saturday night was the last day of the competition, with eliminations narrowing down the number of finalists until the last two remained.
Gabriel responded that she hoped the contest organizers would increase the candidate age limit.
“For me, I would like to see an age increase because I am 28 years old. And that is the oldest age to compete. And I think it’s a beautiful thing. My favorite quote is ‘if not now, then when?’ Because as a woman, I believe age does not define us. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not yesterday — but it’s now. The time is now,” she said.
Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel is crowned at the Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans on January 14, 2023. Credit: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Houston-native Gabriel is a model, fashion designer, and sewing instructor who prioritizes the environment in her work.
In the final question and answer segment of the competition, the Top 3 contenders were asked how they would work to demonstrate Miss Universe as an empowering and progressive organization if they won the title.
Gabriel said she would use the platform to be a “transformational leader” and emphasized her passion as a force for good in the fashion industry by cutting down on pollution and using recycled materials in making clothing pieces.
“We all have something special and when we plant those seeds for other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change.”
Jakkaphong has been outspoken about her experiences as a transgender woman, and is also the first woman owner of the pageant.