(UPDATED) R'Bonney Gabriel of the United States has been named the new Miss Universe.
Gabriel, who also has Filipino roots, was proclaimed "the most beautiful woman" in the Universe during the 71st edition of the pageant in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States on Saturday (Sunday in the Philippines).
She succeeds Harnaaz Sandhu of India, and is the first to wear the "Force for Good" crown made by Mouawad in partnership with the Miss Universe Organization under its new owner, Anne Jakrajutatip.
Gabriel, whose father is Filipino, wore a creation of Filipino designer Rian Fernandez for her evening gown during the coronation night. Fernandez was the same designer who created Gabriel’s gown during the preliminary competition. Her eye-catching “woman on the moon” national costume, meanwhile, was also a creation of Filipino designer Patrick Isorena.
The half-Filipino beauty made history last July when she became the first Asian-American to be crowned Miss Texas USA.
During the first round of question-and-answer portion of the international pageant, Gabriel was asked what change she'd like to see in Miss Universe and why.
She answered: "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?’ As a woman, I believe that age does not define us. It’s not tomorrow, it’s yesterday but it’s now. The time is now that you can go after what you want."
In the final Q&A, the Top 3 contestants were asked how they would work to demonstrate that the Miss Universe is an empowering and progressive organization should they win the competition.
"Well, 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 who 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 to other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change," she said.
Gabriel's first and second runners-up are Amanda Dudamel of Venezuela and Andreína Martínez of Dominican Republic, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ representative Celeste Cortesi ended her Miss Universe early on, as she fell short of taking a spot in the Top 16.
This is the first time the Philippines missed a semi-final placement in the Miss Universe since the stint of Venus Raj in 2010.
Cortesi was aiming for the Philippines' fifth Miss Universe crown after Catriona Gray (2018), Pia Wurtzbach (2015), Margie Moran (1973), and Gloria Diaz (1969).
Born to an Italian father and Filipina mother, she first represented the Philippines in Miss Earth in 2018, where she placed in the Top 8.