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Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel crowns new Miss USA after allegations about rigging competition

Gabriel became the first Filipina American to be Miss Universe earlier this month

Amber Raiken
New York
Monday 30 January 2023 16:06 GMT
Related: What You Should Know About Miss Universe 2023

R’Bonney Gabriel, the winner of 2022’s Miss Universe, has crowned a new Miss USA, after facing allegations of rigging the competition.

The beauty pageant winner gave her former title of Miss USA to Miss North Carolina, Morgan Romano, over the weekend. Since Gabriel won the title of Miss Universe earlier this month, the first runner-up in October’s Miss USA competition received her old title.

The ceremony took place on Saturday at Auburn University, during a preliminary competition of Miss Alabama Teen USA and Miss Alabama USA 2023, according to Pageant Circle.

On Instagram over the weekend, Romano shared photos from her coronation event. The post also featured a photo of Gabriel placing the crown on the new Miss USA’s head.

In the caption, the chemical engineer wrote: “Heart full of gratitude. I’m all yours, USA.”

Former pageant winners took to the comments of Romano’s post to congratulate her.

“YOU ARE MISS USA! Congratulations sister,” former Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers wrote, while Asya Branch, Miss USA 2020 winner, added: “Welcome to the fam, beautiful.”

Miss USA also announced Romano’s new title in an Instagram post, where the caption read: “Day one as Miss USA. The crown looks good on her!”

The event came weeks after Gabriel became the first Filipina American to take home the crown as Miss Universe, despite facing cheating allegations about a possible rigging of this year’s competition.

Following Gabriel’s win, The Miss Universe Organization issued a statement toThe Independent denying the claims, after viewers on social media alleged that the competition favoured Miss USA over the other contestants and called Gabriel’s win a “fraud”.

“The allegations re: rigging of Miss Universe are false,” Amy Emmerich, the CEO of Miss Universe Organization, said.  “People saying that it’s ‘suspect’ that JKN Global Group owns both Miss Universe and Miss USA aren’t familiar with the history of the organisations. ​​One of the top four accounting firms in the United States handled the results and verified the process.”

Emmerich also noted that a firm looked into allegations made about Gabriel’s Miss USA win in October being rigged, and confirmed that the claims were unfounded.

“With regards to the old Miss USA allegations, an independent third party law firm was hired to look into them,” she said. “Their results showed that the rigging allegations were unfounded. R’Bonney has been a strong and dedicated contestant.”

She further expressed her support for Gabriel, adding: “She is the rightful Miss Universe. I look forward to this much attention being focused on her non-profit work as well.”

In another statement toToday, the Miss Universe Organization continued to slam the rigging claims and called them “absurd”, as they took away from the “incredible milestones” the occurred at this year’s Miss Universe competition.

“Instead of focusing on unfounded statements, we will continue to shine a light on global women’s empowerment, inclusiveness, diversity, and transformational leadership,” she said.

Back in October, Gabriel first shut down rumours that this year’s Miss USA competition was “rigged”  after she took home the title. Her remarks were also in response to Miss Montana Heather Lee O’Keefe, claiming in a TikTok video that she and her fellow contestants felt like there was “favouritism towards Miss Texas USA” and they “had the receipts to prove it”.

“I want to start by saying it was not rigged,” Gabriel said during an interview on E! News’ The Rundown. “I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win. I have a lot of integrity.

During an interview with Insider earlier this month, she further explained how the rigging allegations that arose after her Miss USA win were a “huge distraction.”

“I was definitely not expecting it,” she said. “The hardest part was I felt like I didn’t have a voice at times as Miss USA. I wanted to stand up for myself and say: ‘Hey, this is false. This is very frustrating.’ But I wanted to compose myself and carry this with grace because I was in the public eye. I wanted to show people how you can push back from adversity and be resilient.”

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