Miss USA 2022 is R’Bonney Gabriel of Texas: Full Miss USA Recap

Miss USA 2022 is R’Bonney Gabriel of Texas: Full Miss USA Recap

October 21, 2022
By Katerina Katakalides

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In case you missed it, the 71st annual Miss USA pageant was held on October 3, 2022 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada! Just like last year, the competition was hosted by Zuri Hall and just like last year, the Queenly team was right there to watch the pageant live. So, let’s see what the 2022 Miss USA pageant had to offer and if it really embraced “pageantry reimagined.”

Crystle Stewart, president of the Miss USA organization and a former Miss USA herself, has made some major changes to the Miss USA pageant. All of these changes have revolved around the new motto, Pageantry Reimagined. Everything from the ultra-glamorous headshots, to the opening number outfits, to the round table discussion, and even the crowning moment has been changed to showcase a new era of pageantry.

As soon as the opening number began, it was very clear that it would be unlike any past performance! This year, all of the contestants wore fully rhinestoned, Jovani bodysuits with shimmering fringe. What made this look even better is that these ladies were fully dancing on stage! We’re not talking about some hip shakes and pivot turns- these ladies were grooving! Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Elle Smith, Miss USA 2021, strutted across the stage in a super fierce, rhinestone jumpsuit. It’s such a treat being able to watch the reigning queen be involved in the opening number and it was even more fun watching her stand out in the same style, but with a different silhouette. We’re not going to lie, we totally got Miss Grand International vibes!

Once all the titleholders finished showcasing their fierce moves (with some featuring cowboy hats) we got to see all 51 contestants on stage in their first-impression outfits. This is a brand new aspect added to Miss USA that allows each contestant to highlight her unique fashion sense in an outfit that she thinks would make the best first impression. As host Zuri Hall explained, “one of the 51 contestants will have to own her unique style to make a winning impression on the judges. If she can do that, she’s our next Miss USA!”

Then, it was time for the highly anticipated first cut! This would narrow down the group of 51 contestants to just 16, which included the judges’ Top 15 and the People’s Choice winner. Just when we thought pageantry couldn’t get reimagined anymore, sideline host Julissa Bermudez announced that “there’s a new twist to tonight’s competition! As soon as each of the Top 16 contestants hears her name called, it’s GAME ON! As she walks the runway, it will be a “yes” or “no” decision from the judges whether she moves on in the competition. THAT’S pageantry reimagined!”

In order of the live announcement, here was your Top 16 at Miss USA 2022: District of Columbia, New Mexico, California, Connecticut, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, Tennessee, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Minnesota, Texas, and Vermont! We then got to see each semi finalist showcase her personal style on the runway while also getting to watch snippets from their private interviews alongside their headshots. It was then time for the judges to make some hard decisions!

The Top 12 at Miss USA 2022 was then announced and we got to watch these contestants continue towards the crown of their dreams: New Hampshire, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont, Illinois, and Connecticut! While we loved watching these ladies express their personal style, it was finally time for the swimsuit competition. This year, each contestant strutted across the stage in a light pink, Kittenish bikini. We aren’t kidding when we say these contestants worked HARD to be where they are, and we aren’t just talking about their toned physiques.

Unlike past years, when contestants were cut between swimsuit and evening gown, the entire Top 12 got to compete in their evening gowns. While evening gown walks are angelic enough, this moment was made even more magical by performer Chloe Flower, who played the piano so captivatingly on stage. Piano’s are known for being an elegant instrument, so featuring one on stage during the evening gown completion was the perfect choice. Even though we could’ve watched Chloe play and the contestants grace the stage for hours, we were so ready for the final cut! While the contestants changed into their interview outfits backstage, we got to see an appearance from the reigning Miss Universe, Haarnaz Sandhu. A queen of many wise words, she shared a powerful message about breaking stigmas and embracing ourselves for who we are. We really don’t want to see this queen pass on her crown!

All of a sudden…it was here…the final cut! This cut would narrow down the group from 12 contestants to only 5. You can bet the entire Queenly team was on the edge of our seats! The anxious anticipation slowly subsided as sideline host, Micah Jesse, announced the Top 5 at Miss USA 2022. One by one, he read the results: Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, and Nebraska!

The Top 5 then took their seats at the roundtable, which was hosted by Zuri Hall. The roundtable discussion is a new area of conception that we’ve only seen after pageantry was reimagined! Rather than jumping to onstage questions, the roundtable discussion gave the contestants time to showcase their personalities and share opinions on lighthearted topics, like flare jeans making a comeback and whether they prefer to shop in-store or online. This laid back chat gave us the chance to look past “pageant personas'' or constructed answers. Instead, it was more of a girl chat!

However, this didn’t mean that the Top 5 would escape the question and answer portion. After selecting cards that corresponded to different judges, it was time to get the questions rolling! Each question revolved around a different topic, ranging from sustainability, to age limits for politicians, to the ethics of being a social media influencer. The contestants had 30 seconds to answer their questions and we can easily say that they all nailed it! Each of the Top 5 contestants at Miss USA delivered an articulate answer that reflected aspects of who they are. Miss Nebraska USA, for example, spoke about her experiences as an attorney when asked about female representation in the workplace while Miss Texas USA explained that she promotes sustainability in her everyday life as a fashion designer. After each contestant had a chance to answer, it was time for what we’ve all been waiting for: Miss USA 2022’s crowning moment!

After Elle Smith took her final walk as Miss USA 2021, the Top 5 contestants stood hand in hand. Instead of cutting this group down to a Top 3, each contestant would learn her exact placement. Now it was time for the life-changing announcement to begin:
“5th Place at Miss USA 2022 is Illinois!“
“4th Place at Miss USA 2022 is Ohio!”
“3rd Place at Miss USA 2022 is Nebraska!”

At the end of the finale, only two contestants remained on stage: Miss North Carolina USA, Morgan Romano, and Miss Texas USA, R’Bonney Nola Gabriel. As these two titleholders held hands in center stage, we could feel the anticipation and excitement growing. How could it not- we were about to find out who will represent the USA at Miss Universe! Then, we heard the announcement we’ve all been waiting for: “in second place: North Carolina! Miss USA is TEXAS!”

Wow! What an event! The 2022 Miss USA pageant was unlike any we’ve ever seen. From the intricate opening number, to the first impression look, to the unconventional crowning announcement, this year’s competition was one for the books.

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