which lasted for three hours, was streamed live on Saturday, January 14th, 2023. The event took place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, and more than eighty women from different countries around the world participated in the competition to win the coveted title of Miss Universe.
After the competition, which consisted of categories such as interviews, evening gown, swimwear, and community impact, the title of the 71st Miss Universe went to Miss USA R’bonney Gabriel. She was crowned by the 70th Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu.
R’Bonney Gabriel is a 28-year-old woman from Houston, Texas, and she is a fashion designer. She is the first Filipino-American to win the Miss USA title. In addition to being a fashion designer, Gabriel is also a model and a sewing instructor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design with a Minor in Fibers from the University of North Texas and is the CEO of her own sustainable clothing line. Her platform is “for women and young girls to see themselves in her, and feel inspired to conquer their goals by owning who they are.”
During the competition, Gabriel was asked questions in different stages. When she made it to the top 5, she was asked: “Miss Universe recently made an inclusive change allowing mothers and married women to compete in the next pageant. What’s another change you’d like to see and why?” Her response that got her into the top 3 was: “For me, I would like to see an age increase because I am 28 years old. And that is the oldest age to compete. 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.”
When she made it to the top 3, she was asked: “If you win Miss Universe, how will you work to demonstrate this is an empowering and progressive organization?” Her winning response that helped her clinch the title was: ” 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 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. We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds in other people in our life, we transform them, and we use that as a vehicle for change.”
The first runner-up of the Miss Universe competition was Amanda Dudamel, Miss Universe Venezuela 2022, and the second runner-up was Andreina Martinez Founier, Miss Universe Dominican Republic 2022. The pageant was hosted by Olivia Culpo and Jeannie Mai Jenkins live from New Orleans.