Fans claim owner ‘rigged’ Miss Universe pageant

Entertainment

Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel reacts as she is crowned Miss Universe during the final round of the 71st Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, in New Orleans on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(NewsNation) — Fans on social media are claiming the Miss Universe pageant was rigged by new owner Anne Jakrajutatip, who also owns Miss USA.

Texas native R’Bonney Gabriel won the Miss Universe competition over the weekend, with contestants from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic taking second and third place.

Controversy also followed Gabriel’s Miss USA win. Miss Montana, Heather Lee O’Keefe, claimed that competition was rigged. Her social media accounts have since been made private.

Fans accusing the pageant of being rigged pointed to Gabriel’s difficulty walking during the costume segment of the competition, where her outfit paid tribute to NASA and included a moon and stars suspended above her head.

Thai media executive Jakrajutatip bought the Miss Universe Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants in 2022. She has said she wants to change the pageant to represent women’s empowerment, and has already eliminated prizes for most photogenic and best swimwear.

The pageant will also become more inclusive in 2023, with married women and mothers being allowed to enter.

Those calling the competition rigged say Jakrajutatip has a conflict of interest because she also owns Miss USA and Gabriel’s win shows is a sign of favoritism.

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