Today was the most awaited day by Filipino pageant fanatics who have been looking forward to supporting, Celeste Rambibi Cortesi, Filipino-Italian representative of the Philippines to the 71st Miss Universe held at Ernest N. Morial Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
From 84 candidates all over the world, only 16 were to move forward to the next round. The candidates were already pre-judged during the preliminaries last 11 January 2022, where they showcased their National Costume, Evening Gown, and had their closed-door interviews.
The whole Filipino community was shocked when the Philippines failed to make it to the Top 16, effectively ending the 12-year streak since 2011 where we either made it to the Top, become runners-up, or even brought home the crown.
The following countries that made it to the Top 16 are:
- Puerto Rico – Ashley Carino
- Haiti – Madeline Phelizor
- Australia – Monique Riley
- Dominican Republic – Andreina Martinez
- Laos – Payengxa Lor
- South Africa – Ndavi Nokeri
- Portugal – Telma Madeira
- Canada – Amelia Tu
- Peru – Alessia Rovegno Cayo
- Trinidad and Tobago – Tya Jane Ramey
- India – Divita Rai
- Venezuela – Amanda Dudamel Newmen
- Spain – Alicia Faubel
- Curacao – Gabriela Dos Santos
- USA- R’bonney Gabriel
- Colombia – Maria Fernanda Aristzabal
Indeed, times were changing, and standards of pageantry have elevated. The first woman who acquired the Miss Universe Franchise after 71 years, Anne Jakrajutatip emphasized in her speech the importance of equality, empowerment, and transformation.
She said, “I was not accepted by society because they did not want to embrace my differences. I chose not to surrender. I turned pain into power and turned life lessons into wisdom. On this stage called the Miss Universe competition, we can elevate our women to feel strong enough, good enough, and qualified enough and never be objectified again.”
It was also an empowering moment when Former Miss Universe USA, Cheslie Kryst was honored eight months after her death by suicide. Her mother, April shared a heartbreaking speech during the pageant honoring the memory of the late beauty queen.
In her remarks, “As many of you know, Cheslie dealt with high-functioning depression. The Cheslie you saw didn’t always match the way she felt inside. Just because someone tells you they’re fine, doesn’t mean they are. We all need to listen when we check in on our strong friends. Create a safe space so they have room to share if they are challenged… I’m honored to be here tonight to share Cheslie’s story and I ask that you share it. Share it with others in hopes that together we can break the stigma and talk more about mental health.
After the swimwear and evening gown segment was the announcement of the Top 5 who would advance to the Question and Answer portion of the pageant.
The list of countries that made it to the Top 5
- Venezuela: Amanda Dudamel
- United States: R’Bonney Gabriel
- Puerto Rico: Ashley Cariño
- Curacao: Gabriëla Dos Santos
- Dominican Republic: Andreína Martínez
Each of the candidates who made it to the Top 5 was asked different questions. All did well yet Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and the USA made it to the Final 3. They were given one common question to determine who will bring home the crown as Miss Universe 2023.
All three of the finalist have conveyed the message of hope and transformation, but American-Filipina, R’Bonney Gabriel representing the USA won Miss Universe 2023.
The final question wanted to know how the candidates would use the Miss Universe Organization to become transformational leaders.
“I teach sewing classes to women that have survived human trafficking and domestic violence. And I say that because it is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference,” Miss USA said.
“We all have something special and when we plant those seeds for other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change.”
That answer was enough to bag her the crown. A message of empowerment and hope for women by women.