PETALING JAYA, Oct 7 — Just days after being crowned as Miss USA 2022, R’Bonney Gabriel is facing claims that she was a “pre-determined” winner.
Gabriel became the first Filipina-American woman to win the title on Monday (Oct 3), during a ceremony held at Nevada, United States.
The 28-year-old model and fashion designer was also the first Asian-American to win the Miss Texas USA title in July this year.
Soon after Miss USA 2022 concluded, other contestants began speaking out against Gabriel’s win, claiming that the pageant was rigged.
Gabriel refuted these claims in an interview with E! News! on Thursday, saying she had “a lot of integrity”.
“I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win,” she said.
Speculations of drama at the beauty pageant began surfacing online moments after Gabriel was crowned, when viewers noticed that her fellow competitors had walked offstage without congratulating her.
This was followed by since-deleted Instagram Stories posts by several other contestants alleging favouritism towards Gabriel.
Over a string of social media posts, Miss Montana Heather Lee O’Keefe claimed that she had the “screenshots and receipts” to back up the allegations.
In one video, O’Keefe implies Gabriel had been flown out to a Cancun resort by one of the pageant’s sponsors weeks before her win.
However, Gabriel said she had paid for the trip herself to shoot a promotional video as Miss Texas.
“I would love to communicate with her (O’Keefe) because I think there’s a lot of allegations that are coming up that aren’t true, and people are leading to conclusions that just simply aren’t true,” said Gabriel.
“I want to be transparent, and I want everybody to know that there was no unfair advantage and nothing was rigged.”
In another TikTok video, O’Keefe said neither she nor the other contestants bore any ill-will towards Gabriel.
@heatherleeokeefe Replying to @katydoingthings #missusa #missusadrama #missusascandal #missusa2022 #pageanttea original sound - Heather Lee O’Keefe, J.D.
“I would probably do the same thing and accept the favouritism, we really can’t blame this girl.
“The issue is the organisation seems to have allegedly set her up for this win because it fits the organisation’s agenda,” she said.