When Miss Texas R’Bonney Gabriel was crowned on Monday as the winner of this year’s Miss USA pageant, she became the first Asian and Filipina to wear the crown. But her reign, less than one week old, has already been marred by scandal, as claims of cheating and “favoritism” flood the internet.
Rumors of the controversy began almost the moment Gabriel’s name was called, when, instead of smothering her with lipstick-smudging kisses (as is usually the case), many of her fellow contestants simply stormed off the stage.
It didn’t take long for the on-stage drama to spill over to social media, thanks in part to Nizuc Spa and Resort, sponsors of one of the key prizes to be given to the winner.
Just hours after Gabriel’s win, Nizuc posted to their Facebook page a message of congratulations that caused suspicious eyebrows to elevate.
The attached video showed Gabriel receiving luxurious treatments on a visit that was reportedly filmed nine weeks before she was crowned, leading many to believe the fix for her win was already in.
According to the Daily Mail, “None of the other entrants are known to have visited, or been filmed for their own advert should they have won.”
Then there’s Gabriel’s apparent friendship with Miss USA director Crystle Stewart. A former Miss USA, Stewart was filmed styling Gabriel’s hair weeks before her win.
Over on TikTok, Miss Montana Heather Lee O’Keefe claimed the Miss USA contestants could prove the contest was rigged in favor of Miss Texas.
“Most of the Miss USA contestants feel very strongly that there was favoritism towards Miss Texas USA and we have the receipts to prove it,” O’Keefe stated.
@heatherleeokeefe #greenscreen #missusa #missusadrama #missusa2022 #pageantdrama #pageanttok ♬ original sound – Heather Lee O’Keefe, J.D.
In an Instagram Live on Wednesday, O’Keefe doubled down on her accusation, the Daily Mail reports.
“We are putting our titles on the line, putting our reputations on the line,” she said. “That’s how strongly we feel about believing and standing up for what is right.”
“There is many of us who have even said we are willing to relinquish our titles to take this stand because that’s how serious we are about this,” she added.
According to former Miss USA contestant Jasmine Jones — a ten-year veteran of the pageant circuit — it was “obvious” that the contest was rigged when the ladies walked off the state.
“In any pageant you’ve ever been in, the production manager tells you you stay on stage until she’s done, you stand there and you clap,” she explained on TikTok.
“In the background, girls were literally clapping [weakly] and they started exiting the stage before she even turned around for her congratulatory hug from other contestants,” she continued. “Before she even got halfway down the runway for her crowning moment, the contestants behind her were exiting the stage.”
And that, Jones claims, is proof that something was “off.”
@callmejas0 Part 3! #greenscreenvideo #pageantry #missusa #2022 #crowning #sketch #fyp #part3 #OverwatchMe ♬ original sound – Jas
“We all just acted, in the moment, what we thought was right,” said O’Keefe. “We are a class of Division I athletes, Harvard alumni, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and people who fought for their citizenship to this country. We are the farthest thing from sore losers.”
“Nothing against Texas as a person,” O’Keefe stated. “I truly think she could’ve won fair and square, but unfortunately all of this drama has tainted her win. But there’s just too much evidence of favoritism to let this go unnoticed.”
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