Even before she won the Miss USA crown on Monday, becoming the first Filipino-American in history to win the title, the model and fashion designer has always proudly spoken about her mixed heritage. She even wore a dress inspired by her Filipino ancestry to the Miss Texas interview.
“I feel at peace knowing I have put in the work to develop into the truest form of myself. I’ve learned the importance of embracing who I am,” she said on Instagram, wearing an outfit she designed herself, inspired by the Filipiniana dress, usually characterised by oversized sleeves.
She said she represents Texans, Filipina-Americans and those who push past self-doubt "to reach their greatest potential".
Gabriel, 28, was crowned Miss Texas in July, earning her a spot in the Miss USA contest.
"Representing Texas is my biggest honour. I carry the pride and love of Texas and Filipina-Americans on my shoulders," she said following her win.
On Monday, she beat 49 other candidates to the Miss USA 2022 crown. Earlier in the evening, Gabriel also won the Best in National Costume, with her look inspired by the Texas state flower, the bluebonnet, by Filipino designer Patrick Isorena.
Who is R'Bonney Gabriel?
Born to a Filipino father and an American mother in San Antonio, Texas, Gabriel is a model and fashion designer who runs her own label R'Bonney Nola.
She is 170 centimetres tall and graduated from the University of North Texas.
Following her win, she said she now feels a “big responsibility” to share her multicultural background and empower others to embrace their identities.
"My dad moved to America from the Philippines on a college scholarship with about $20 in his pocket. He wanted to pave a new life for himself. He met my mom in Texas, who is a country woman from Beaumont,” she told ABC News. “I'm a very proud Filipina Texan."
A love for beauty pageants
Like many Filipinos, Gabriel has always been interested in pageantry.
Her journey with beauty contests began when she took part in the Miss Friendswood competition last year. Gabriel is from Friendswood, a city on the outskirts of Houston. She then participated in Miss Texas 2021, finishing second after winner Victoria Hinojosa.
Not one to give up easily, Gabriel participated again at the Miss Texas 2022 in July.
Gabriel is passionate about the environment, which is also reflected in her eco-friendly fashion label.
For the question and answer round at Miss USA, she was asked about what she would do to help address the issue of climate change and how women are more vulnerable to its impact, particularly in developing countries.
"I am a fashion designer. I actually made the outfit I'm wearing and I upcycle pieces and recycle different clothing to be more sustainable in my industry because I feel like it's my duty. So I think that's something we can all look for in our certain industries and in our homes — to be more sustainable," Gabriel said.
Mixed-race Filipinas at Miss Universe
With her Miss USA win, Gabriel will go up against Celeste Cortesi, who was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2022 in a ceremony at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila in April.
Cortesi, 24, is Filipino-Italian. She was raised in Italy before moving to the Philippines five years ago to pursue a career in pageantry.
Two mixed-race Filipinos have won the Miss Universe crown in the past, both for the Philippines. Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach is Filipino-German while Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray is Filipino-Australian.
Scroll through the gallery below for all the Miss Universe 2022 contestants who have been crowned so far