October 24, 2022 | 8:36am
MANILA, Philippines — Days after R’bonney Gabriel of Texas won the Miss USA 2022 crown, allegations of favoritism were hurled against her and the Miss USA Organization; claiming that the Texan beauty queen’s victory was predetermined and that the pageant result was rigged.
R’bonney denied all these rumors of favoritism. As the first Asian-American to have won the state title, her victory was historic and one for the books – a far cry from former state winners, who all sported the trademark Texan cowgirl look.
The controversy started when Miss Montana 2022 Heather Lee O’Keefe pointed out a photo shoot done in a sponsor’s resort nine weeks before the Miss USA pageant; fueling speculations that the pageant outcome was predetermined. She also emphasized the Texas connection in this brouhaha.
“I think this is a big issue that a lot of us are trying to bring light to is the fact that Ms. Stewart owns so much of the organization. She owns the main organization, Miss USA, and she also owns the main sponsor of the organization which is a big issue we all have with it.
“The Miss Academy sponsored Miss Texas much more than they sponsored the rest of the contestants,” alleged Miss Montana.
But Crystle Stewart countered the allegation by saying, “With Miss Academy, every single contestant had training through an eight-week program and we offered state directors the same opportunity as a state-level sponsorship as well.”
The PR material in question, of a photo shoot done in Cancun with one of the pageant’s sponsors, would still air even if Miss Texas did not win the crown.
Concurring with Stewart was pageant juror Aaron Potts who said that, “The contest was very, very strict with its judges and there was no bias in choosing this year’s winner.”
Last year’s winner Elle Smith said that, “They are discrediting R’bonney’s win this year because they (co-candidates) also attempted the same to me last year.”
The 28-year-old Filipina-American beauty queen obtained her Fashion Design degree from the University of Texas. She operates an eco-friendly clothing line, R’bonney Nola.
In the meantime, the Miss Universe Organization has suspended The Miss Brand entity, headed by Crystle Stewart. The MUO, which owns both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageant systems, has taken over the reins of the national organization while a third-party investigation by law firm Holland & Knight is being undertaken.
“As a former titleholder, I know firsthand how much hard work, mental preparation, and dedication goes into the process of being on the main stage. The last thing I would even want to do is discredit or deny the contestants an equal opportunity to a fair competition. I would never jeopardize my dream of running an organization that empowers these women,” shared Stewart, who competed at the 2008 Miss Universe edition.
It would seem that the flow within the Miss USA communication channels is the real culprit behind this issue. And with the situation not managed well, the allegations simply caught fire. Pageant fans and supporters are hoping the investigation clears up the allegations in due time.
R’bonney is the 10th Texan representative to win the Miss USA title since its inception. She will be competing with other international delegates at the 71st Miss Universe competition slated on January 14 (January 15, Manila time) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Stay tuned!