The new Miss Universe learned karate under me

Watch out, the new Miss Universe knows karate! It’s true.

R’Bonney Gabriel, who recently was crowned the 71st Miss Universe, is actually an alumna of my nonprofit Kickstart Kids program (KSK) that teaches character through karate in middle schools across Texas. She was trained under one of my 50-plus amazing instructors, Mr. Dona Pettway at Lake Olympia, outside of Houston.

Whatever you feel about beauty contests or even the controversy around the Miss Universe international pageant, the more you know about R’Bonney Gabriel, the more you will be impressed by her.

Ms. Gabriel was born in San Antonio, Texas, on March 20, 1994, to American mother Dana Walker and Filipino father Remigio Bonzon R. Bon Gabriel, who relocated to the United States at the age of 25 in order to complete his psychology degree at the University of Southern California. After graduating, the family relocated to the Houston area, where Ms. Gabriel was raised as the eldest of four siblings, with three younger brothers. That’s where she attended Lake Olympia Middle School, where she was trained in karate in our KSK program.

Ms. Gabriel would go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in fashion and apparel design with a minor in fibers from the University of North Texas. She then become a professional model and eco-friendly fashion designer. As such, she affiliated herself with the Houston-based Magpies & Peacocks, the nation’s only 501(c)3 nonprofit design house dedicated to the collection and sustainable reuse (recycle) of post-consumer clothing, scrap textiles and accessories diverted from landfill.

One particular flower-design material she created she dedicated to her parents, as she wrote on her Instagram back on Oct. 2, 2022: “I designed this to pay tribute to my parents. My mom is from Beaumont, TX and my father is from the Philippines. They got married in Manila, Philippines. I hand painted the same flower design from my mothers’ wedding dress onto my sleeves and tied in a traditional Maria Clara Filipina collar shape. I have immense gratitude for the opportunities my parents provided me and wanted to express my love to them through this.”

However, her design that took the cake and the crown was called “Woman on the Moon,” a costume piece she worked on with a Filipino artist – which quickly went viral online:

About its edgy and some would say outrageous design, Ms. Gabriel explained to People magazine: “Honestly, I’m not somebody that takes myself too seriously. I love seeing the memes about them. They make me laugh. I was laughing at myself when I got on stage.” (Gabriel said the costume was so heavy she could only have it on for 30 minutes!)

Ms. Gabriel entered pageantry only back in 2020, winning the Miss Texas USA competition in 2021. In fact, after becoming the first Miss USA of Filipino heritage, she followed it up by becoming the first Filipino-American to win Miss Universe. She’s also the first Miss USA to win the Miss Universe pageant in 10 years. She beat out 73 other gifted and talented international contestants. Here’s the moving moment on Twitter when she won.

In the last-stage Q&A of the competition with the three finalists, R’Bonney was asked how she would use her Miss Universe title to better our country and the world if she were to win.

“I would use it to be a transformational leader,” she responded, and further explained how she has used recycled eco-materials in her fashion design and teaching sewing to survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence.

“It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community and use your unique talent to make a difference,” Gabriel added. “We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds to other people in our life, we transform them, and we use that as a vehicle for change.”

Speaking of transformation, Ms. Gabriel is a product of Texas charm, faith in God and perseverance through tough times, as she wrote on her Facebook page on New Year’s Day: “My life really changed this year and I have to thank God for all the ups and downs I went through. I witnessed the power of focusing on my purpose and living with intention. I’m thankful for the opportunities and for never giving up when times got rough. I move forward into 2023 with hope and a grateful heart.”

As far as what keeps her steady, stable and a servant of society, it’s her Christian faith. You can see her gratitude to God come out in the moment she was crowned and walked before a cheering crowd of thousands and millions on television. Pointing her finger up to Heaven and looking up as she did, she explained that moment on her Facebook page: “What once seemed impossible … all glory to God!”

Ms. Gabriel, my wife, Gena, and I, as well as the rest of the KSK leadership team, are so proud of you! We were honored to have a small part in your early character formation as a middle-school student in our KSK program. We pray for your continued success and know that you will do great and amazing things to help millions through your reign as the 71st Miss Universe!

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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