The 28-year-old, R’Bonney Gabriel has a sustainable fashion company and also teaches sewing to survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. The contest’s owner, Anne Jakkaphong, says Miss Universe is entering a “new era” which will “celebrate the power of feminism”.
The Texas-based fashion designer, model, and sewing instructor is the first Filipino American woman to win Miss Universe.
She was the first Filipino American to win Miss USA last year.
The 71st Miss Universe pageant was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Saturday, and included contestants from 84 different nations.
The previously called sexist competition included “personal statements, in-depth interviews, and several categories, including evening gown and swimwear.”
Gabriel played volleyball in high school and went on to get a degree from the University of North Texas. According to a brief biography on the organization’s website, she also serves as CEO of R’Bonney Nola, her own brand of eco-friendly clothes.
She was questioned about how, if she were to win, she would show Miss Universe was “an inspiring and progressive organization.”
The 28-year-old talked about incorporating recycled materials into her clothing designs and taught sewing to victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking.
We all possess something unique, and when we sow those seeds in the lives of others, we alter them and utilize it as a catalyst for change, she said.
A total of ten judges, including two previous winners, a musician, an actor, a dermatologist, a fashion designer, a journalist, and a former Miss USA, served on the panel.
Miss Venezuela came in second, followed by Miss Dominican Republic.
India’s Harnaaz Sandhu, the winner from the previous year, gave Gabriel her tiara, sash, and bouquet.
The mother of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, who had been diagnosed with depression and committed herself in January of last year, paid homage to her daughter at the pageant, which also brought attention to mental health issues.
In honor of Kryst, Miss Universe created a new fund in collaboration with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The competition will now be managed by women, owned by a trans woman, for all women throughout the world to celebrate the force of feminism, said Miss Universe Organization owner Anne Jakkaphong.
The CEO of JKN Global Group PCL, a Thai media business that purchased the Miss Universe Organization for $20 million (£16.6 million) in October of last year, is a 43-year-old transgender activist and billionaire.
The pageant’s rights were partially held by former US President Donald Trump from 1996 and 2015.
Ms. Jakkaphong, who previously claimed that talk show presenter Oprah Winfrey served as inspiration, has frequently spoken about her experiences as a transgender woman. She is also the first woman to host a beauty contest in the US.
Rules have been loosened under the competition’s new management, allowing moms and married and divorced women to compete for the first time in the competition’s 70-year history.