Miss Universe R'Bonney Gabriel Hands Over Miss USA Crown to Successor, Miss North Carolina Morgan Romano
Miss Universe R'Bonney Gabriel is passing on the Miss USA crown.
On Saturday, 28-year-old Gabriel crowned the new Miss USA 2022, Miss North Carolina Morgan Romano. The ceremony took place during the Miss Alabama Teen USA and Miss Alabama USA 2023 preliminary competitions.
According to Pageant Circle, Gabriel was crowned Miss USA last year, but because of her Miss Universe win earlier this month, her former title goes to Romano, the first runner-up.
"Heart full of gratitude," Romano, a chemical engineer, wrote in a post on Instagram, which included pictures from the ceremony. "I'm all yours, USA."
"Time to pass on the USA crown," Gabriel wrote in a separate post.
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Gabriel is the first Filipino-American woman to be crowned Miss USA, and the first Miss USA representative to win Miss Universe in a decade.
After winning Miss Universe on Jan. 14, Gabriel told PEOPLE she hoped to use her platform to promote eco-friendly fashion.
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"Especially now that I'm Miss Universe, I have a very big platform, and that is one of my key goals as Miss Universe," she said.
"I feel like Mother Nature has given to us to respect and enjoy and I just hate the fact that we're destroying it in ways," she added. "So that's why I'm so passionate about it. Because I think it's something that we can take action on and fix."
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Gabriel's Miss Universe win was surrounded by controversy. Miss Montana, Heather Lee O'Keefe, alleged that several contestants felt like there had been "favoritism" towards Gabriel, per NBC News.
Other contestants also spoke out on social media, claiming they felt like they never had "a fair chance" at the crown.
"This is an opportunity to show the world [that] even when negativity comes your way — I think we all experience a little internet hate here and there — to not let it get to you," she told PEOPLE of the controversy. "And I think that this is a great opportunity for me to set an example."