Miss Texas R’Bonney Gabriel made history this week as the first Filipina American to be crowned Miss USA.
Gabriel, a 28-year-old fashion designer of San Antonio, Texas, will go on to represent the U.S. next year at the Miss Universe pageant. Gabriel said she designed her dress to pay tribute to her heritage and parents.
“My mom is from Beaumont, Texas, and my father is from the Philippines,” Gabriel wrote in an Instagram post. “They got married in Manila, Philippines. I hand-painted the same flower design from my mother’s wedding dress onto my sleeves and tied in a traditional Maria Clara Filipina collar shape. I have immense gratitude for the [opportunities] my parents provided me and wanted to express my love to them through this.”
Her win coincides with Filipino American History Month, which started in October.
“Oh my God, it’s an honor,” Gabriel said. “I’m getting messages on Instagram and just social media of Filipina girls and women telling me they’re so excited, they’re so happy.”
“They’re crying tears of joy because they are inspired to go after pageantry or something,” she said. “Like I’m paving the way for them to just go after whatever they want no matter what it is. So it’s an honor.”
Gabriel graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design. Her historic win comes after Macel Wilson of Honolulu, Hawaii, became the first Asian American to win Miss USA in 1962.