Miss Universe owner denies rigging claims, surprised by Top 16

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 20) — The new owner of the Miss Universe franchise has spoken up on the surprising twists and turns of the recently-concluded coronation — from the composition of the 16 semi-finalists and the crowning of the ultimate winner, R'bonney Gabriel of USA. 

Anne Jakrajutatip defended Gabriel, saying that aside from her impressive answer during the Q&A portion, she has been living her advocacy which is sustainable fashion.

"She used and implemented also the Force for Good, which is sustainability for her fashion design. That is her profession so she's actually implementing that, not just saying I'm going to do this campaign but she's implementing this for quite a long time," Jakrajutatip explained in an interview with one of the finals judge Olivia Quido, a California-based Filipino-American skincare entrepreneur and sponsor of Miss Universe.

She added, "That would be the important or essential part to make the judges see her as the winner.”

The Thai media mogul, who only acquired the rights to the pageant in October 2022, also said she would gain nothing from letting the US bet win the 71st edition of the pageant held in New Orlreans, Louisiana.

She added that Gabriel does not deserve to be disrespected by questioning the legitimacy of her win since she has stood out throughout the competition.

Meanwhile, Jakrajutatip shared that she was also astounded when the Top 16 semifinalists were called on the Jan. 14 coronation night (Jan. 15 in Manila).

Quido told her, “Filipino fans are surprised that they are not in the Top 16." She replied, "I’m surprised also!"

She also expressed astonishment that her own country's bet ,Thailand's Anna Sueangam-iam, as well as the strong contenders from Italy, Honduras, Mexico, and Cambodia did not make the cut.

But she pointed out that this does not mean that the candidates who made it to the semis are undeserving.

"My goodness, everything just went upside down," Jakrajutatip said. "I'm surprised but I'm not shocked by the quality or by the high standard of the judges."

The Philippines' candidate Celeste Cortesi ended the country's 12-year streak in the semifinals of the Miss Universe competition.

The Top 16 was composed of candidates from Puerto Rico, Haiti, Australia, Dominican Republic, Laos, South Africa, Portugal, Canada, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago, India, Venezuela, Spain, Curacao, USA, and Colombia.