Miss USA and her family went through a lot before becoming Miss Universe 2022. Her dad was a Filipino immigrant who came to the US with only $20 in his pocket, hoping for a better life for himself and his family.
After ten years, the Miss Universe crown is back in the United States after R’Bonney Gabriel bagged it. She is the first-ever Filipino-American to claim the crown, making it a historic and inspiring win for millions of people.
The eco-friendly fashion designer wowed the judges and audience alike with her advocacy, taking great pride in designing and sewing her own clothes using recycled materials. In fact, she won Miss Texas USA wearing cloth she found in a thrift shop which she turned into a dress.
Her Filipino Father’s American Dream
R’Bonney’s journey began when her Filipino father, Remigio Bonzon “R. Bon” Gabriel, moved to America on a college scholarship. He only had $20 in his pocket but was determined to start a new life in the US.
R Bon went on to earn a doctorate in psychology from the University of Houston. Aside from modeling for his daughter’s clothing line, he worked as a car mechanic.
It was in the US that her dad met her mom, Dana Walker, in Texas, who is also Filipino-American. They fell in love and had four children, with R’Bonney being the youngest and the only girl.
R’Bonney is nothing but proud of her parents and their humble beginnings. She describes her parents as a “match made in heaven.”
Growing Up Multi-Cultured
Growing up in a Filipino-American family meant R’Bonney was exposed to different cultures. It was an eye-opening experience for her, and she credits her unique upbringing for making her the person she is today. She shared:
“Growing up with two different cultures has made me the person I am because the family dynamic is so different on my mom and dad’s side. It’s really just made me a very open-minded person.”
Through it all, R’Bonney couldn’t have made it to the Miss Universe pageant without her supportive parents. They built a great foundation for her to reach her dreams thanks to their guidance, support, and perseverance which served as inspiration for the beauty queen.
Her Work as a Sustainable Fashion Designer
R’Bonney discovered her passion for sewing when she was 15. Now, she is an eco-friendly fashion designer with her own clothing line and is a sewing instructor for domestic abuse survivors.
Her advocacy as a sustainable fashion designer isn’t only to create quality clothing pieces using eco-friendly fabric and advocate others to do the same, but she also uses her talent to help women learn the tools they need for success.
“It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference,” R’Bonney noted about her advocacy. Now with a much wider platform, R’Bonney is keen on shedding light on her advocacy so that more people join in on the movement.
Paving the Way for Filipina-Americans in Pageantry
Even before winning Miss Universe 2022, R’Bonney already mentioned how honored she was to pave the way for Filipinas in pageants, and Asian-Americans in general, inspiring them to pursue whatever lane they wish.
R’Bonney now represents young women who might have always dreamt of becoming beauty queens but have never considered pageants because they don’t seem to look the part. While the Miss Universe 2022 winner might be the first Filipino-American to win the crown, she joins Macel Wilson, the first Asian-American woman to win Miss USA in 1962, in raising the flag.
Winning Miss Universe 2022
The road to being Miss Universe wasn’t easy for R’Bonney, who experienced being first runner-up several times before finally being the first Filipino-American to win Miss Texas USA. Then, winning Miss USA was her final stepping stone before finally reaching the crown.
R’Bonney wanted more than to be a beauty queen – she wanted to tell a story; she wanted to represent. So, every single look she had during the Miss Universe 2022 pageant was well thought of. In fact, her parents flew to Manila a couple of weeks before the pageant to pick up her national costume and bring it back to the US.
Using Her Platform for Change
After winning the pageant, the Filipino-American couldn’t help but commend the support she received not just from the US but from the Philippines as well. The energy from both countries was contagious, and the support meant a lot to her.
“To be half-Filipino, I feel like that helped me feel the energy in the crowd. The support is everything. I feel blessed. As the first Filipino-American Miss Universe, I can now be a voice, a larger voice for other girls, and just show them that you need to embrace who you are,” she shared after winning.
While being reigned as Miss Universe 2022 was a pleasant surprise for R’Bonney, her dad, R Bon, didn’t doubt it for a second. Wearing a yellow outfit and a confident smile during the coronation night, he manifested his daughter’s win. “She is gonna win it. She’s gonna be Miss Universe tonight,” he said.
As Miss USA and Miss Venezuela held hands before they announced the winner, R Bon’s manifestation came true: his daughter was hailed as Miss Universe 2022. It was a chilling moment for him, his daughter, their family, and to all those who were watching, and the first time Miss USA won the pageant in ten years after Olivia Culpo did in 2012.
R’Bonney made history at that moment and now serves as an inspiration to millions of girls worldwide who would one day like to achieve their dreams the same way R’Bonney did.