HomeAsian AmericansMiss USA responds to allegations competition was 'rigged'

Miss USA responds to allegations competition was ‘rigged’

After a historic win as the first Filipino American Miss USA on Oct. 3, R’Bonney Gabriel is shrouded in controversy. There have been allegations that the competition was rigged in Gabriel’s favor. 

In an interview with E! News, Gabriel clarified that the claims are unfounded.

“I want to be transparent, and I want everybody to know that there was no unfair advantage and nothing was rigged,” Gabriel said.

“As a title holder and as Miss USA, I don’t want girls to think that this is how pageantry works.”

Yahoo News reports that through a series of TikTok videos, Miss Montana Heather Lee O’Keefe claimed that there had been favoritism toward Gabriel.

According to O’Keefe’s videos, NIZUC Resort & Spa, one of the pageant’s major sponsors, had posted a video of Gabriel on social media enjoying the amenities they offer less than 24 hours after she won the title.

“It’s pretty clear that this video was pre-recorded, and she was flown out there about nine weeks ago for this experience,” O’Keefe said in the TikTok video.

Gabriel clarified that NIZUC Resort & Spa asked her to be an ambassador for their brand when she was crowned Miss Texas in July.

“Just to clarify, the sponsor did not fly me out. I flew myself out. So after I won Miss Texas, USA, they are sponsors and invited me to be a brand ambassador for their new spa at NIZUC resort,” Gabriel told E! News.

“So I flew myself out, shot the video, and that was released after I won Miss USA.”

According to Daily Beast, O’Keefe also raised suspicions regarding Gabriel’s relationship with Miss USA director Crystle Stewart.

A photo of Stewart doing Gabriel’s hair made rounds on social media, hinting at an alleged close relationship.

“It’s not clear when this photo was taken if it was before or after the competition,” O’Keefe said in her TikTok video. “But I can tell you this is the room where all the contestants were getting their hair, and makeup was done before the competition,” she added.

In response, Gabriel clarified on E! News that the photo was taken the day after she won Miss USA. It happened during a photo shoot for her official Miss USA headshots.

“That photoshoot happened the day after I won. In the morning, that was the first thing I did … wake up the next day do hair and makeup,” Gabriel told E! News.

Crystal was there, of course, and she stepped in and actually did my hair because she said, ‘Hey, I can do a snatched ponytail,’ and I said, ‘I’d love to see it.’ So she hopped in and did it,” Gabriel added.

Gabriel broke her silence and addressed the accusations head-on because, according to her, Miss USA is a competition that empowers and commemorates women’s achievements.

“This is to celebrate women. We’ve worked very hard, and I have respect for all the women that showed up on that stage,” Gabriel told E! News.

R’Bonney Gabriel will represent the United States at the 71st Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Jan. 14, 2023.

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