Beauty pageants stand much beyond a stage full of glamour as they give a chance to three catalysts to change the world for the better. This year as well, the Miss Universe pageant yet again brought new excitement, and a breath of freshness to the air as the whole world watched the crowning moment of its 71st queen on January 14th at Ernest N Morial, New Orleans. Hosted by TV personality Jeannie Mai and model Olivia Culpo — Eighty-three contestants competed in this year’s pageant by putting their best foot forward. India’s reigning Miss Universe 2021, Harnaaz Sandhu, crowned her successor R’Bonney Gabriel, a 28-year-old first Filipino American beauty to win both Miss USA and the ninth woman to have won Miss Universe for the USA. Andreina Martinez Founier, 25, from the Dominican Republic, finished as the second runner-up, while Amanda Dudamel, 23, from Venezuela, came third at the event.
As Harnaaz Sandhu took her final walk as Miss Universe, she paid a heartfelt tribute to the Former Miss Universe 1994 Sushmita Sen and Miss Universe 2000 Lara Dutta as she wore a black gown featuring pictures of both their winning moments — designed by Saisha Shinde, who also designed her marvellous golden gown for the crowning ceremony of 70th Miss Universe. She was overwhelmed with joy and shed a few happy tears as she was crowned R’Bonney Gabriel, Miss Universe 2022.
The prestigious global event celebrating women was due to be held in December 2022 and was postponed. As the speculations have it — to avoid a clash with the FIFA World Cup.
Miss Universe unveils all women pageant selection committee this year, which included sports reporter Emily Austin, Miss Universe 1998 from Trinidad Wendy Fitzwilliam, Miss Universe 2010 from Mexico Ximena Navarrete, journalist and socialite Myrka Dellanos, Model and actress Mara Martin, Founder of O Skin Med Spa and Clinical Skin Care Olivia Quido, American rapper Big Freedia, American author Shweta Patel, ImpactWayv Chief Marketing Officer Kathleen Ventrella (preliminary judges), Miss USA 2015 from Oklahoma Olivia Jordan (preliminary judges).
The 2022 ‘Force For Good’ crown presented to the Miss Universe winner is encrusted with diamonds and sapphires, creating an ombré effect, and has a colossal pear-shaped Royal blue sapphire at the crown — designed by Mouwad Jewelry in collaboration with Miss Universe Organization.
The final three contestants — R’Bonney Gabriel (The USA), Andreina Martinez Founier (Dominican Republic), and Amanda Dudamel (Venezuela) — were asked the same question, whose answer would seal the victory. They were asked, “If you win Miss Universe, how would you work to demonstrate this as an empowering and progressive organisation?” the winner of the pageant responded, “As a very passionate designer, I use fashion as a force for good… I teach sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence. 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. We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds (in) other people in our life, we transform them and use them as a vehicle for change.”
Gabriel wore a handcrafted black evening gown designed by Filipino designer Rian Fernandez for the crowning moment. The dress featured a deep plunging neckline with gunmetal metal accents that embody the strength of America, and blue sapphire stones favour sophistication.