R’Bonney Gabriel – a fashion designer, model and sewing teacher from Texas – has become the first Filipina-American to win Miss Universe.
Last year, she became the first Filipina-American to win the Miss USA title.
Women representing 84 different countries participated in the 71st Miss Universe pageant held in New Orleans, Louisiana on Saturday.
The competition, which has been labeled sexist in the past, includes “personal statements, in-depth interviews and a variety of categories including evening gowns and swimwear”.
Gabriel is a former high school volleyball player and graduate of the University of North Texas. A short bio on the organization’s website says she is also the CEO of her own sustainable clothing line, R’Bonney Nola.
In the final Q&A, she was asked how she would show Miss Universe to be “an empowering and progressive institution” if she wins.
The 28-year-old spoke about using recycled materials in her fashion designs and teaching sewing to survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.
He concluded: “We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds in our lives for other people, we change them and we use that as a vehicle for change. do.”
The panel of 10 judges included two former winners, as well as a musician, actress, dermatologist, fashion designer, journalist, and a former Miss USA.
Miss Venezuela won second place and Miss Dominican Republic third place.
Last year’s winner, Harnaz Sindhu of India, presented Gabriel with her tiara, sash and bouquet.
Tamasha also shed light on mental health, along with her mother Former Miss USA Chesley Crist – who was diagnosed with depression and took her own life in January last year – paid tribute to her daughter.
Miss Universe announced a new fund in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and named it in Christ’s honor.
Anne Jackafong, owner of the Miss Universe Organization, hailed it as a “new era” for the pageant, saying that “from now on, these women, owned by a trans woman, will drive rights for all women around the world.” To celebrate the power of femininity”. .
The 43-year-old billionaire and transgender activist is CEO of JKN Global Group PCL, the Thai media company which bought the Miss Universe organization for $20m (£16.6m) last October.
Between 1996 and 2015, the competition rights were partially owned by former US President Donald Trump.
Ms Jackafong, who has previously said she is inspired by chat show host Oprah Winfrey, has often spoken about life as a transgender woman, and is now the first woman to host a beauty pageant in the US. of
Under the pageant’s new ownership, rules have been relaxed to allow mothers and married and divorced women to enter for the first time in 70 years.
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