Miss Universe Titleholders Learn the Universal Power of a Smile

This jam-packed Journey of Smiles brought the pageant winners face-to-face with Smile Train patients in Guatemala

Miss Universe, Miss Universe Guatemala, Miss Universe USA, and Miss Teen USA posing with teen Smile Train patients

One word to describe the recent Miss Universe Journey of Smiles to Guatemala? Life-changing. From the patients to the families to the titleholders themselves, everyone said the two-day experience was one they would never forget.

A Guatemalan woman teaches Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel how to weave
Miss Universe was lucky enough to get a personal lesson in weaving Guatemalan fabrics

Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel, Miss USA Morgan Romano, and Miss Teen USA Faron Medhi were all smiles as they made their way to Guatemala. It was their first international trip together, and their first opportunity to get up close and personal with Smile Train and all the lives we touch.

A Lesson in Culture and Confidence

On the first day, the titleholders traveled to Guatemala City to host a roundtable talk with Miss Universe Guatemala Ivana Batchelor about one of the most important things a girl can have: Confidence.

R’Bonney, Morgan, and Faron posing with teen Smile Train patients
Every participant left the conversation feeling empowered

Joined by a group of teenage Smile Train patients, everyone shared their struggles with self-confidence, from obstacles they faced in their past to today. The patients and titleholders alike opened up and eagerly swapped stories and support. Even the language barrier couldn’t get in the way of the heartfelt connections they formed.

The titleholders closed out the first day with an authentic Guatemalan cultural experience: a personal lesson in how locals turn Guatemalan textiles into fabulously colorful clothes. Naturally, the women didn’t just find out how to make them. They got to wear them too!

Faron, R’Bonney, and Morgan dressed in traditional Guatemalan clothing
L to R: Faron, R’Bonney, and Morgan dressed in Guatemalan clothing

Inspirations of All Ages

On the second day, the trio made their way to the home of Wendy, a young Smile Train patient who recently received her first cleft surgery. Her parents shared that without Smile Train, they wouldn’t have been able to afford the cleft lip surgery cost. Her family’s story of perseverance and the personal connection they formed with their local Smile Train partners deeply moved them.

The titleholders posing with Wendy, her mom, and her sisters. Wendy is holding a photo of herself before surgery
The once-in-a-lifetime visit brought smiles all around for Wendy’s family

Each moment of the visit was filled with smiles, including for Wendy’s five older sisters. In a moment that will go down in family lore for generations, all of the girls got to strut their stuff with the titleholders.

Afterward, the women visited Wendy’s heroes at Tess Unlimited, their local Smile Train partner, to learn more. There, they met two more patients: babies preparing for their first cleft surgeries. After learning more about the surgeries and getting to know the people who performed them, the titleholders had no doubt that the infants were in the best hands.

Morgan holding a baby with a cleft
Morgan having a special moment with a new Smile Train patient

While the babies received their surgeries, the women got to tie-dye shirts with 15 patients of all ages. Everyone’s hands were coated in color as they showed off their shirts and their smiles.

“Being able to hear the stories of strength from those who have gone through Smile Train treatments was truly inspiring,” said R’Bonney.

A Journey of Discovery

When the trip finally came to an end, it was hard to say goodbye. The trio returned to the States with even bigger, brighter smiles and the knowledge of just what a new smile can do.

Learn more about how to help Smile Train spread smiles through our community programs.