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University alumna crowned first Filipina American Miss Texas USA

University alumna crowned first Filipina American Miss Texas USA

University alumna crowned first Filipina American Miss Texas USA
July 21
12:00 2022

“You, R’Bonney Gabriel, are our new Miss Texas USA!”

R’Bonney Gabriel, 28, covers her smile with her hands in disbelief at the emcee’s announcement. Miss Texas USA 2021 Victoria Hinojosa places a crown on Gabriel’s head soon before she is handed a large bouquet of yellow roses. The university alumna then struts down the stage, smiling wide, as she makes her first official walk as Miss Texas USA.

“All of the dedication, the sacrifice of focusing solely on training for the pageant for about the last eight months […] — all that hard work had been put into that last crowning moment,” Gabriel said. “It was just an extremely euphoric, happy feeling.”

Gabriel made history on July 2 when she was crowned as the first Filipina American Miss Texas USA. She said she considers it an honor to represent the Filipino community in such a way.

Courtesy R’Bonney Gabriel

“I hope this just shows any Filipino or Asian, or anybody that doesn’t see someone like themselves in pageantry or any industry, that that doesn’t mean there’s no room for them,” Gabriel said. “You can always be the first person to do something.”

Gabriel said being Miss Texas USA is a full-time job and a big responsibility. She believes it is important for her to positively influence others through her new title and platform. She hopes to continue encouraging others to achieve their goals while showcasing the level of hard work it takes to do so.

“If anything, I feel a great deal of responsibility to inspire people to go after whatever they want to do in life,” Gabriel said.

Sean Irwin, Gabriel’s workout coach and friend, has known her since high school and helped her train for this year’s pageants. He said a lot of the attributes others look for in Miss Texas USA come naturally to Gabriel and she is a great example of how to properly handle the pressures and stress life can throw at people.

“She’s a great example when it comes to following your passions, not being scared to be yourself and standing out from the crowd with pride,” Irwin said.

Gabriel, who graduated from the university in 2018 with a bachelor’s in fashion design, used the pageant as an opportunity to show off some of her personal designs. As the owner and creator behind the independent, sustainable fashion label, R’Bonney Nola, she said she loves sharing more of her fashion work on stage, as it is what introduced her to pageantry in the first place.

“It makes me so happy that I can not only show people the hard work that goes into it but I can also show a unique and different side of me, too, in the pageantry world,” Gabriel said.

Courtesy R’Bonney Gabriel

In addition to her fashion label, Gabriel has also used her pageant platform to spread awareness about nonprofit work. She teaches sewing at Magpies and Peacocks, a nonprofit Houston design house. The sustainable house offers sewing classes to women that have survived domestic violence, human trafficking or are members of underserved communities. Gabriel said it feels special to spread more awareness about Magpies and Peacocks’ mission because it has led to her growth as a designer.

“It really keeps me going,” Gabriel said. “It helped me get out of a burnout phase because now I have a stronger purpose of what I’m doing.”

Miss Texas Teen USA 2022 Chanel Williams, 15, said she sees Gabriel as more of a sister than a role model. Williams said Gabriel is hardworking and focused on her goals and hopes she continues to let her determination and inner light shine on stage.

“It’s like a bow and arrow – she’s straight on the path and she knows what she wants,” Williams said. “I think it’s really inspiring, so I want to see her continue to inspire others.”

As Miss Texas USA, Gabriel now qualifies for the national Miss USA contest in October. In the meantime, Gabriel aspires to prepare more designs to debut on the Nevada stage and further her collaborative projects with Magpies and Peacocks.

Through both her pageant and fashion work, Gabriel said she hopes to further inspire and aid women in need across her community.

“I just believe everybody needs an abundance of opportunities,” Gabriel said. “That is my main goal —  to open up opportunities for people to help them find what makes them unique and tap into their greatness.”

Courtesy R’Bonney Gabriel

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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