Congratulations to R’Bonney Gabriel for Winning Miss USA, a First For a Filipino-American
2002 is turning out to be a banner year for Filipino-Americans impacting American pop culture.
In August, the first-ever Hollywood big production Filipino-themed and almost all-Filipino cast movie – Jo Koy’s Easter Sunday – was released in thousands of theaters in the U.S. and Canada, breaking in the top 10 on its first two weeks of release.
Just two weeks ago, R’Bonney Gabriel (Miss Texas 2022) became the first Filipino-American to win the Miss USA title. She will represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant 2022, to be held on January 14, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Gabriel was the first Asian American to win Miss Texas.
Gabriel, 28, of Houston, TX, is a fashion designer (creating eco-friendly clothing) and model. She graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and minor in fibers.
Her father is Remigio Bonzon “R. Bon” Gabriel, born in the Philippines, immigrated from Manila at the age of 25 to Washington and went on to earn his doctorate degree in psychology at the University of Southern California. Her mother is Dana Walker from Beaumont, TX.
Beauty Pageants, embedded in Filipino culture
Any Filipino knows the significance of beauty pageants in Philippine culture. Gabriel herself said in an interview, “in the Philippines there are two national sports, boxing and beauty pageants.” And Gabriel is exactly right.
Unlike in the U.S. where there are some who question the value of beauty pageants – and rightfully so to an extent – in the Philippines they look at pageants as a way for girls to compete in a competitive world, and to learn to develop social skills, poise, and to handle pressure. Girls in the Philippines enter pageants ultimately for confidence-building.
And since beauty pageants are impressed upon young girls in the Philippines like a sport, as a country the Philippines is one of the best at pageants in the world. The Philippines is a power house when it comes to international pageants.
The Philippines is only behind the U.S. (eight titles) and Venezuela (seven titles) in the number of Miss Universe winners. The Philippines has won the Miss Universe crown four times: Gloria Diaz (1969), Margarita Moran (1973), Pia Wurtzbach (2015) and Catriona Gray (2018). Their contestants frequently place in the top 10 or top 5. There were also a few runner-ups.
It’s worth mentioning that the Miss Universe winners from the Philippines went on to do great charitable and professional work after their victories, which aligns with the larger values of beauty pageants beyond just beauty.
Diaz has become a major figure in the entertainment industry, having a fruitful career as an award-winning actress and television host. She’s been involved in many charitable events.
Moran ran a few private companies. She also hosted a television series and produced movies. She is also a patron of the arts, serving as President of Ballet Philippines. Lastly, she is also known for her philanthropic work with Habitat for Humanity Philippines and the Mindanao Commission on Women Organization.
Wurtzbach works with the Miss Universe organization, spreading awareness on HIV and AIDS. She has also begun work in show business as an actress and host.
Gray became the ambassador of Philippine Red Cross during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has advocated for women’s rights, indigenous culture, and the “One Town, One Product” (OTOP) project of the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry. She became the host and performer of the TV5 variety show, Sunday Noontime Live!.
As for other international pageants, the Philippines has also won Miss Earth four times, Miss International six times, and Miss World one time.
Controversy at Miss USA 2022
Unfortunately, but it may be a blessing in disguise further testing her character and strength, R’Bonney Gabriel Miss USA, her victory has been clouded in some controversy. Without solid evidence, a few 2022 contestants have accused the pageant organizers of fixing this 2022 results. Mainly three contestants have gone on social media criticizing the pageant organizers (not Gabriel) of selecting Gabriel as the winner before the start of the pageant.
The unfounded accusations have dampened Gabriel’s win and put her on the defense. Gabriel issued a statement, “I would never want to enter a competition that was rigged. I have a lot of integrity.” She added, “I know all of the contestants worked really hard to prepare and I don’t want these allegations to overshadow the accomplishments of all the women who participated in this year’s Miss USA competition. I know how hard every woman worked and I want their efforts to also be acknowledged. At this time, I am excited to move forward with training for Miss Universe and all of the opportunities that the Miss USA Organization will provide, while expanding on my personal platform for sustainable fashion and advocating for charity partners Best Buddies and Smile Train.”
The Miss USA Organization denies any wrongdoing.
There have always been rumors of insider fixing at pageants as long as pageants existed. Why perhaps this is getting so much attention could be because of the popularity of social media where contestants with poor sportsmanship can voice their opinions. Last year’s Miss USA pageant had similar complaints, but was not given as much media attention as this year’s.
We fully support Gabriel and will be hoping for her to have a great showing in the upcoming Miss Universe pageant. The unfounded allegations by a few bad apples will not take away from the Filipino community’s celebration over Gabriel’s achievement.
Mabuhay Gabriel. We’re proud of you and how you are handling yourself!