All Hail The Queen

Alumna uses her talents to be crowned this year's Miss Texas USA, the first Filipino American woman to earn the title.
Written by: 
Danielle Zachariah
R'Bonney Gabriel
R'Bonney Gabriel ('18)

Since the article was published in September 2022, R’Bonney Gabriel won the Miss USA pageant in October 2022 and the Miss Universe pageant in January 2023.

At 15, R'Bonney Gabriel ('18) began sewing, constructing her own designs and showcasing them at fashion shows in her hometown of Houston.

She made the decision to come to UNT after hearing good things about the fashion design program and graduated in 2018 with her bachelor's in fashion design with a minor in fibers.

From there, she continued to pursue her career in design and modeling and was approached with an opportunity that would change her life.

That moment led her to becoming the first Filipino American woman to be crowned the title of Miss Texas USA 2022.

"The feeling still hasn't sunk in yet," Gabriel says. "When I heard my name, I was on cloud nine; it felt euphoric and electrifying! I couldn't stop smiling!"

Queen in Training
R'Bonney Gabriel sewing

While at a photo shoot, a stylist talked to Gabriel about the Miss Texas USA pageant and encouraged her to compete. When the COVID pandemic began, she decided to go for it and started to observe other contestants while undergoing training.

"I had interview lessons four times a week, learned how to pageant walk and had lessons on how to do my hair and makeup," Gabriel says. "I was also working out and eating healthy, watching the news and formulating opinions on certain topics and issues."

While preparing for the competition, she wanted to take the skills she has as a fashion designer and apply them to construct her own outfits for the pageant.

"I thought this would be a good way to push for sustainability in the beauty industry," Gabriel says. "I'm not afraid to be experimental and enjoy bringing in a surprise element."

She spent many days sewing and constructing her outfits, bringing her designs to life. One of those outfits included her own traditional Filipiniana dress, known as a Maria Clara gown.

And she's not just using her skills for the pageant. She currently works as the lead sewing instructor of the nonprofit design house, Magpies and Peacocks, in east downtown Houston, helping domestic violence survivors in the area.

She said she was inspired to help after reading the book Think Like a Monk by famous life coach Jay Shetty.

"Life is more purposeful when helping others," Gabriel says. "When you're doing something for the greater good, it's a fuel for life. For me, that made life so much more meaningful."

Representing Houston, she came into the Miss Texas USA competition feeling ready to take on whatever came her way, even with it being her first pageant. She said that what gave her immense confidence for the event was listening to motivational speeches from inspiring people like Kobe Bryant, Oprah Winfrey and Les Brown.

All of the preparation and hard work she put in made the outcome worth it.

Beyond Beauty
R'Bonney Gabriel

Everything that Gabriel worked for led her to winning her new title of Miss Texas USA 2022. As the reigning champion, she will go on to represent the state of Texas in the Miss USA pageant Oct. 3.

She said she's looking forward to overcoming the stress and challenge of a big competition, along with the opportunity to grow even more as a person and a contestant.

With the Miss USA competition in particular, she plans to continue bringing awareness to sustainability in the fashion industry by constructing more outfits to wear for the pageant.

Beyond the pageant world, she hopes to reach a larger scale with her independent clothing brand, R'Bonney Nola, continue her modeling career and expand with her teaching. She hopes to inspire others like herself to find their purpose in life.

"I want to encourage others to find their uniqueness -- to apply themselves in life and find what makes them special," Gabriel says.