R’Bonney Gabriel pays tribute to Paula Shugart after ending Miss Universe Org tenure

November 21, 2023 - 5:43 PM
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RBonney and Paula
Miss Universe 2022 R'Bonney Gabriel and Miss Universe Organization president Paula Shugart before stepping down from her tenure in this photo from R'Bonney's Instagram on Nov. 18, 2023 (rbonneynola/Instagram)

Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel paid tribute to Paula Shugart who has ended her 23-year reign as president of the Miss Universe Organization.

The Filipino-American beauty queen on November 18 shared pictures and a clip of her with the longtime Miss Universe executive on Instagram, where she congratulated the latter for a “phenomenal career.”

“Congratulations @realpaulashugart on a phenomenal career as president of Miss Universe Organization for 20+ years,” R’Bonney wrote as a caption.

“You have led an organization that has transformed many women’s lives and have left a lasting impact on mine,” she added.

“You are a force to be reckoned with and I’m forever grateful to have experienced the best year of my life as Miss Universe under your guidance. Your strength is an inspiration to us all,” the beauty queen said.

“I have no doubt that your next chapter will be just as great,” R’Bonney concluded with a heart emoji.

Her post has amassed over 63,000 likes so far.

Paula responded by thanking R’Bonney for being an “inspiration” to her.

“Thank you @Rbonneynola. Your resilience has been an inspiration to me this year. Looking forward to the next chapter for both of us!” the MUO icon said.

“I need this picture for my book,” Paula added with a smiling face emoji.

In her farewell speech after the Miss Universe 2023 concluded its national costume show last Sunday, the MUO executive said she would end her presidential tenure after the pageant’s coronation.

She added that her decision was “months in the making” and was “not a response to the recent events” in the organization.

Recent events include new Miss Universe owner, Thai conglomerate JKN Global Group, entering Thailand’s “business rehabilitation program” to repay the company’s debts.

RELATED: ‘Biz rehab, not bankruptcy’: MUO owner speaks up on JKN Global’s status | Thai businesswoman buys Miss Universe pageant for $20 million

“I stayed because of my belief in El Salvador and my love for the Miss Universe brand,” Paula explained to the audience.

“I have always passionately believed that Miss Universe is not about any one woman, it’s about community — our community — it’s about the passionate fans, the titleholders, the national directors who have remained dedicated to this brand through thick and thin, and because of them, the brand is strong and will remain resilient,” she continued.

Paula reflected on the organization’s rough state when she took over in 1997 and thanked the Miss Universe community for why it managed to remain afloat and improve.

“We taught women that true beauty is based in confidence and using your voice, we expanded our global reach and focused on telling the stories of all these incredible women,” she said, touching on MUO’s rule changes to allow transwomen, mothers and wives to compete.

Paula also shared her learnings about the definition of “transformational leadership” which she said must be about “putting the needs of the team above all else in creating a vision for the future, empathetic beyond self-interest, committed to building inspiration and teamwork (not insecurity and chaos), motivation over denigration, honesty, respect, integrity and living by one’s words.”

She also urged women to continue using the Miss Universe platform to use their voice and “change the world.”

“Don’t think for one minute I’m retiring, I have an unbelievable story to tell and I look forward to telling it,” Paula said.

MUO owner Anne Jakrajutatip, who heads the JKN Global Group, applauded Paula following the latter’s speech.

However, some were intrigued by the MUO icon’s speech which they felt appeared loaded.

RELATED: Philippines mentioned in Miss Universe Organization’s message as Paula Shugart exits

Paula was not the only one who recently left the organization.

Last May, “well-loved” Esther Swan, the MUO’s director of talent development, also bid farewell after serving the organization for 22 years.

As head of talent development, her tour of duty began with Miss Universe 2001 Denise Quiñones’ year and ended with R’Bonney.