Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel was crowned Miss Universe 2023 on Saturday in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Hailing from Houston, Texas, the fashion designer triumphed over Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel, who was named first runner-up, and Miss Dominican Republic Andreína Martínez, who placed second runner-up.
Gabriel, who is the pageant’s first Filipino-American winner, was presented with Mouawad’s “Miss Universe Force for Good Crown,” crafted from 48.12 carats of diamonds and 108.44 carats of sapphires. The jewelry brand said the crown’s design is meant to inspire “positive change for a better future.”
The 28-year-old wore an embellished black gown by Rian Fernandez, a designer from the Philippines. It featured a deep neckline and studded shoulders. Black onyx and glass mirror drops were incorporated throughout, and the fringe skirt was emblazoned with blue sapphire Swarovski stones and dangling gunmetal details. In a statement, Fernandez said the striking look represented Gabriel’s “strength and remarkable resilience” and “power of the United States of America.”
Gabriel cited her experience as an eco-friendly fashion designer during the pageant’s final interview round. She was asked: “If you win Miss Universe, how would you work to demonstrate this as an empowering and progressive organization?”
Gabriel responded, “I would use it to be a transformational leader. As a very passionate designer I’ve been sewing for 13 years, I use fashion as a force for good. In my industry, I’m cutting down on pollution through recycled materials. When I make my clothing. I do sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence.”
Continuing, “And I say that because it is so important to invest in others invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference. We all have something special and when we plant those seeds to other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change.”
Gabriel succeeds Miss Universe 2022, Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu of India.
The coveted pageant remains one of the most watched in the world. This year, the show included almost 90 delegates representing their countries.
Gabriel’s eco-conscious brand R’Bonney Nola includes womenswear, ranging from T-shirts, gowns, made-to-order corsets and cropped denim jackets made from repurposed denim.
Aligning with her fashion-focused career, Gabriel is also a sewing instructor at the non-profit organization Magpies & Peacocks. The mission is described as “disrupting the cycle of waste in the fashion industry,” with the goal of re-directing its environmental and social impact.
Last week, Gabriel posted a series of photos to her official Instagram page, showcasing an outfit she constructed for her preliminary Miss Universe interview, inspired by Van Gogh.
“I wanted to convey a message of finding beauty in a thunderstorm. As a textile artist, I love transforming fabric, so I hand painted blues, whites, and grays inspired by Van Gogh. I poured so much into this piece and it was a dream come true to wear this for my @missuniverse interview,” the designer wrote in her Instagram post on Wednesday.