By: Michelle Liew
A fashion designer, model and sewing instructor from Texas who is reported to be the first Filipino American to win the Miss USA beauty pageant, successfully clinched the title of Miss Universe, yesterday.
R'Bonney Gabriel topped the 71st Miss Universe Pageant held here, followed by Amanda Dudamel of Venezuela as runner-up, while Andreina Martinez (Dominican Republic) emerged as second runner-up.
Gabriel is a former high school volleyball player and graduate of the University of North Texas, in addition to holding the position of chief executive officer (CEO) of his clothing business.
The organizers informed that almost 90 participants from all over the world took part in the competition this time which saw Gabriela Dos Santos (Curacao) and Ashley Carino (Puerto Rico) also among the top five finalists.
Last year's Miss Universe competition was won by Harnaaz Sandhu representing India.
"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.
Upon her win, Gabriel said she would use the platform to be a "transformational leader".
"I teach sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence. 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," Gabriel said.
"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."