January 28, 2023 | 12:00am
Almost three weeks since the crowning moment, pageant fans are still rabid in the comments section of our beauty queens. In particular, we have seen violent reactions and accusations on Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel’s pages saying that she is using her Filipino heritage for clout. This kind of criticism stemmed from as early as her Miss USA days when people took notice of her beauty and presence on the stage up until winning the crowns.
We wanted to hear R’Bonney’s reaction on the matter and so I hit up Miss Universe to have a midnight chit chat. She came on time for our Zoom meet, which was around brunch time in New York. After two weeks of media rounds and 20-plus guestings all over the United States and online press from abroad, she was still as pleasant as ever in a white top and her hair in a simple straight brushed style.
R’Bonney’s energy is just unwavering. “Oh I have prepared for this. I try to get some rest here and there but I prepared so much for the task at hand,” she said.
We went straight to the point during our chit chat regarding the online situation and how passionate pageant fans can get. The Filipino-American beauty queen flawlessly answered her critics, “They have their other favorites that they wanted to win because the fans are so passionate. But I am somebody who really wants the hard work to do the talking and win over people within my year. I just want to be focused on my job as Miss Universe. Any negativity will just be outshined by the positivity moving forward.”
Besides R’Bonney, even the previous Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu received so much criticism for her weight but she handled the bullies bravely. That’s why once R’Bonney took over as successor, she revealed that Harnaaz was there for her to guide her as soon as she stepped on the plane to the Big Apple. She said, “I was talking to Harnaaz on the plane and she even left me a little gift in my apartment which was great and I told her I hope I could visit her in India at the end of the year.”
R’Bonney also spoke to half-Pinay Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, but she also hopes to talk to the other half-Pinay Miss Universe queen Pia Wurtzbach. She said, “I haven’t spoken to Pia yet. I’m hoping to do that. I’ll probably just reach out to her but Catriona was actually here and I got to exchange messages (with her) when I won. She wished me luck and gave me some advice to stay true to myself because she’s one of my biggest inspirations. I have watched so many of her videos. I love the way she speaks.”
It is already a tradition for Miss Universe queens to embark on their first out-of-the-country trip to Puteri Indonesia, the Indonesian counterpart of Bb. Pilipinas and R’Bonney is set to do so this February. In the coming months, she said that the Philippines is definitely on the map, especially as she frequented the country prior to the pandemic.
“I have been wanting to go back to the Philippines. I haven’t been back since before COVID so it has been three years. Now, we’ll be able to,” she said.
Talking to her made us realize that she is so familiar with what goes on in Manila and how much she knows of her roots. She said, “I stay at a family house in Malate. Everytime I go to Manila either I’m shopping or eating or I’m stuck in traffic.”
Her advocacy Fashion As A Force For Good was active even before she won Miss Universe. R’Bonney recalled that she visited a garment district in Manila selling second-hand cloth and that was what she used for her outfits. She also told us of her plans to conduct sewing lessons and sustainable fashion to every country she goes to.
R’Bonney reiterated her appreciation that despite the naysayers, there is still so much support from the Filipinos all over the world. She said, “I love it. I love the Filipinos so much. Maraming maraming salamat sa support. Filipinos are so strong.”