San Antonio fashion designer, R’Bonney Gabriel this week made history as the first Filipina American to be crowned Miss USA.
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.”
Less than a week since she won the title, Gabriel has had to defend her crown after her fellow contestants took to social media to share what they claim is evidence that the entire pageant was gifted to Miss Texas.
“Most of the Miss USA contestants feel very strongly that there was favoritism towards Miss Texas USA and we have the receipts to prove it,” Miss Montana Heather Lee O’Keefe said on TikTok.
O’Keefe also raised suspicious about Gabriel’s apparent close relationship with Miss USA director Crystle Stewart and other competitors have also venter their frustrations online.
Miss Alabama Katelyn Vinson wrote: “It’s crushing and heartbreaking to have worked so hard towards a goal only to realize you never stood a chance.”
However, Gabriel has denied the allegations.
“I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win,” Gabriel told E! News on Friday, adding that she would be open to discussing the allegations.
Gabriel will go on to represent the U.S. at the Miss Universe pageant next year.