Miss Universe R’Bonnie Gabriel proudly represents her hometown of Houston.

Miss USA R’Bonnie Gabrielle may have just been crowned Miss Universe, but she remains true to her Houston roots. In her first local TV interview since winning on Saturday, Gabrielle spoke about her love for H-Town and the shock she felt after beating 83 women from around the world to claim the coveted first place.

“I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t sure if it was really me who won,” she told KHOU 11. “When you’re on that stage in the audience, everyone applauds so loudly. I could barely hear them speak. my name. I saw them coming towards me with a sash and a crown and then I realized, “Oh my gosh, I really won” and I was so happy. It was the best feeling.”

Already making history as the first Filipino-American to be crowned Miss Texas and Miss USA, Gabrielle said she is also honored to be the first Filipino-American to win the Miss Universe title. “This is not only a victory for me, this is a victory for my family and society, and for all the women and little girls who text me,” she said. “I really just hope this brings inspiration and I hope women and young girls – they can be the first to do something. Nobody should be afraid to be a pioneer.”

The Houston native is even more proud to represent Bayou on the international stage. During the national costume contest, the model and fashion designer paid homage to their hometown with a NASA-inspired ensemble featuring a chunky moon headpiece and silver stars. “I’m proud of Houston. I feel like I’m making Houston even more visible on the map,” Gabriel told KHOU 11. I’m happy that now I can be one of these people and continue to inspire the city.

A graduate of the University of North Texas, Gabrielle runs her own independent clothing label in Houston called R’Bonney Nola. She is also a sewing instructor for the Houston-based nonprofit Magpies & Peacocks, which collects and reuses used clothing, textile waste and landfill accessories to create sustainable clothing.

Gabrielle showed off her fashion skills during the competition by wearing a cape she designed from plastic bottles in the swimsuit competition. She secured victories over Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel and Miss Dominican Republic Andreina Martinez during the final round of questions when they were asked how they would work to showcase Miss Universe as a powerful and progressive organization if they won the title. Gabrielle highlighted her passion for using fashion for good, reducing pollution through the use of recycled materials when she creates her clothes, adding that she will use her new title “to become a transformational leader.”

During the pageant, Gabrielle also said that she hoped Miss Universe would allow women over 28 to compete. “I’m 28 and that’s the oldest age to compete and I think that’s great,” she said. “My favorite quote: “if not now, then when?” Because, as a woman, I believe that age does not define us. It’s not tomorrow. It’s not yesterday. But it is now. Now is the time when you can achieve what you want.”

Gabrielle said she wants to expand her message of using fashion for good and hopes her win will inspire others to believe in themselves. “I didn’t think I could do anything and it blocked so much potential for me,” she told KHOU 11. “Everyone should realize that they have unlimited potential, but it all starts with that one positive belief that you can do it.”

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