Miss Universe crowned with bold statement on age

Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel (C) celebrates after winning the 71st Miss Universe competition.

Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel (C) celebrates after winning the 71st Miss Universe competition. Photo: Getty

An American fashion designer who teaches sewing classes to female victims of human trafficking has been crowned Miss Universe at the 71st pageant.

R’Bonney Gabriel, who is Miss USA, took the title ahead of Miss Venezuela and Miss Dominican Republic, from a field of 84 contestants.

She was previously the first Filipino-American to win Miss USA in the competition’s history.

Gabriel is the lead sewing instructor for non-profit design house Magpies & Peacocks, and teaches sewing classes to women who have survived human trafficking and domestic violence.

The Houston-based organisation is dedicated to using ‘fashion as a force for good’ such as diverting unwanted textiles and fabrics from landfills and turning them into fashion collections.

“R’Bonney’s mission is for women and young girls to see themselves in her, and feel inspired to conquer their goals by owning who they are,” said the Miss Universe website.

The 71st Miss Universe Competition in New Orleans. Photo: Getty

‘Oldest age’

Earlier in the competition, Gabriel made a bold statement on age when asked what change she would like to see in the Miss Universe pageant.

Stating she was the “oldest age” allowed, Gabriel said she would like to see older women included in the event.

She was asked: “Miss Universe recently made an inclusive change allowing mothers and married women to compete this year. What’s another change you’d like to see and why?”

She responded: “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.”

In the final round she was asked how she would use her new platform to show that Miss Universe was “an empowering and progressive organisation”.

Gabriel said she would wanted to be a “transformational leader” and emphasised her desire to be a force for good in fashion.

“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.

R’Bonney Gabriel taking part in the competition. Photo: Getty

“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.”

Gabriel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design at the University of North Texas in 2018. She is currently CEO of her own sustainable clothing line, R’Bonney Nola.

This year’s pageant was the first held since the Miss Universe Organisation was bought by tycoon and transgender rights advocate Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip.

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