Miss USA 2022 R'Bonney Gabriel responds to claims that pageant was 'rigged'

Miss Montana Heather Lee O'Keefe has taken to TikTok to share her theories on why the competition was unfair

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Newly crowned Miss USA 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel has responded to allegations made by her fellow contestants that this year’s contest was rigged.

Gabriel was the first Filipino-American to win Miss Texas and made history again as the first to be crowned Miss USA. Since her historic win, Miss Montana Heather Lee O’Keefe has taken to TikTok claiming the contest was unfair and sharing her theories along with it.

In a series of videos, O’Keefe exposes different situations regarding the competition’s practices that she considers suspicious. She has also said that other fellow pageant contestants feel the same way, which would match up with why viewers noticed some beauty queens immediately walk off after Gabriel was crowned instead of giving the traditional congratulatory hugs.

"Bottom line is, most of the Miss USA contestants feel very strongly that there was favouritism towards Miss Texas USA and we have the receipts to prove it," she claimed in a TikTok video posted on Wednesday.

Since these statements were made, Gabriel has now spoken out.

"The current allegations are based on perception, and not the truth," she told People. "I would never want to enter a competition that was rigged."

"I know all of the contestants worked really hard to prepare and I don't want these allegations to overshadow the accomplishments of all the women who participated in this year's Miss USA competition," she said.

"I know how hard every woman worked and I want their efforts to also be acknowledged. At this time, I am excited to move forward with training for Miss Universe and all of the opportunities that the Miss USA Organisation will provide, while expanding on my personal platform for sustainable fashion and advocating for charity partners Best Buddies and Smile Train."

The Miss Universe organisation also issued their own statement about the claims, saying they would begin an investigation into it.

"We are aware of the concerns that have been brought forth by this year's Miss USA contestants. We commend the women for bringing these issues to our attention and will always be an organisation that encourages women to use their voice," reads the post that was shared on Instagram Stories.

"There are existing systems in place to ensure the fairness of our national competitions and as such we have begun an active review into this situation."

Gabriel, who beat 49 other candidates to succeed Miss USA 2021 Elle Smith, will represent her country at the Miss Universe pageant on January 14 in New Orleans.

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Updated: October 09, 2022, 9:11 AM
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