In the eyes of the Filipino people, Maria Venus Raj brought home not only a place in the Miss Universe 2010 pageant, but also pride and distinction to the country. (CLICK HERE to read related story.)
Since her return, Venus has been making the rounds as TV guest. The latest was her live appearance on Showbiz Central yesterday, August 29. She was interviewed by hosts John "Sweet" Lapus, Pia Guanio, Raymond Gutierrez, and Rufa Mae Quinto for the "Intriga Crossfire" segment.
JOYFUL HOMECOMING. How does it feel to be home at last?
"Grabe po, pagdating ko pa lang sa airport, sobrang daming tao na nagkakaguluhan sila!" gushed the beauty queen. "Sobrang sarap ng feeling na at least pagbalik sa bansa natin, e, may karangalan akong dala para sa Filipinos."
The welcome and support she received everywhere, from the people in Las Vegas to the airport here in Manila, filled Venus with joy.
"Super overwhelmed ako," she smiled. "Parang hindi ko naman ine-expect na ganoon kalakas mag-support ang Pilipino. Parang sobrang amazing sa feeling po!"
LUCKY CHARMS. It's been 11 years since the Philippines placed in the Miss Universe pageant. Rumor has it that the earrings Miriam Quiambao wore in the Miss Universe 1999 where she finished 1st runner-up helped Venus get a place in the Top 5. True?
"I think so, kasi parang hindi lang si Ms. Miriam nagsuot, si Ms. Lara [Quigaman, Miss International 2005] din yata," smiled Venus.
Venus also received a gift from Melody Gersbach, the Bb. Pilipinas-International 2009 winner who died in a vehicular accident last August 21. (CLICK HERE to read related story.)
"She gave me a bracelet na pearls na may cross," Venus said. "Binigay niya 'yon noong send-off party ko. Sabi niya na 'Itong bracelet na ito, bigay sa akin ng isang kaibigan. Ginamit ko ito sa Miss International.' Nagpabigay daw sa kanya ng lakas ng loob."
Venus was a close friend of the late beauty queen. Melody was very down to earth, said Venus. "Kahit ang yaman-yaman niya at maganda siya, e, hindi niya ipapa-feel sa iyo na mas angat siya. Noong nag-start pa lang kami ng pageant sa Bicol, sobrang bonded na talaga."
Both Venus and Melody are from Bicol.
EXPERIENCES BACKSTAGE. News of backstage catfights in beauty pageants is common. For Venus though, she's lucky that she didn't really experience anything bad in a "major way" during the Miss Universe 2010 pageant.
"So far, this year, parang wala po!" laughed Venus. "Sabi nga ng organization na batch daw namin is the greatest batch kasi mabait lahat at masunurin. So far, wala naman ganoon."
Can she mention some Miss Universe 2010 contestants who were not really nice?
After giving a hearty laugh, she said, "Ayaw ko na lang magbigay ng pangalan... May iba kasi na parang, 'Panalo ako, huwag mo akong lapitan!' Parang kakausapin mo sila, e, hi-hello lang. Lahat ng movements nila, parang pinong-pino. May ganoon po talaga!"
Did any of those candidates win or at least earn a place?
"Hindi," replied Venus with a big smile.
On a serious note, did Venus ever feel nervous before the other Miss Universe contestants? Who among them did she consider her toughest competitors?
"Definitely sila Ms. Venezuela, Ms. Dominican Republic," said Venus. "Sobrang ang ganda nila! Hindi mo iisipin na totoong tao sila. Parang ginawa lang para sumali sa ganyan. Given na pag taga-doon ka, e siguradong pasok ka."
But the two candidates both failed to enter the Top 15.
What was the mood inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas when she got included in the Top 5?
"Sobrang dami! Karamihan po Pilipino ang nandoon!" Venus exclaimed. "Every time na tatawagin ako, sobrang lakas ng sigawan nila. Iyong mga palakpakan nila, nag-boost sa confidence ko. Feel na feel mo na happy ka inside."
GAME FOR SHOWBIZ. Miriam Quiambao and Precious Lara Quigaman joined show business after their beauty pageant stint. Is Venus interested?
"Gusto ko po," she admitted. "Hindi naman siguro impossible iyon, but so far, gusto ko muna tapusin ang Binibining Pilipinas commitments ko. Hosting po is parang light at maganda siya, though acting is maganda din at mae-explore mo din ang kaya mong gawin."
For now, she has to be on the receiving end of an interview. The question that hangs right now is the famous Question and Answer portion of the pageant. Pageant judge William Baldwin asked Venus, what's the biggest mistake of her life and what did she do to correct it? She answered that there was none.
Lots of people wondered why Venus didn't cite her past issues, like the birth certificate controversy?
"No, it was not a mistake kasi sabi ko nga, I'm a very positive person," said Venus. "Lahat ng nangyayari sa akin sa buhay, e, challenge ni God. There is a reason kung bakit 'yon nangyari and there's a purpose kung bakit nangyari. Iyong nangyari, e, hindi naman talaga siya mistake. Actually I'm very thankful na nangyari 'yon kasi hindi nangyari 'yon, e, wala lang, normal lang siguro na pupunta doon [sa pageant] na hindi kalakas ang determination na manalo kasi may gusto kang patunayan."
Then with a big smile, she ended, "Hindi siya mistake talaga."
NATURALLY CONFIDENT. Venus had nothing done to her face or body to "upgrade" her looks. Is she open to such enhancement?
"Feeling ko pag nagparetoke ako, e, maninigas ilong ko!" laughed Venus. "Hindi kasi ako sanay, e."
There was also an issue that Venus would've won had she gotten a translator for the pageant. What's her stand on this?
"Okay lang. Sa totoo lang kasi pag tinanong ka, e, hindi ka masa-shock na anong words na gagamitin," she said. "Sa palagay ko kasi kung nilagay ko sa form ko na kailangan ko ng interpreter, e, baka isipin ng Miss Universe commitee, e, hindi ako nakakapagsalita ng Ingles at hindi ko kaya i-promote ang pageant."
If she answered in Filipino in the Q&A portion, does she think that she would have won?
"May chance po talaga," Venus said. "Definitely maganda ang isasagot ko. Ang tanong, e, tatawagin ba ako sa Top 5 kung may interpreter ako?"
Will she endorse interpreters for future Filipina contestants in international beauty pageants?
"Depende sa kandidata, kasi may iba na gusto nila pero sa tingin nila na kaya nila matuto sa duration ng pageant. Well, okay na hindi din magdala. Kung gusto nila ng interpreter, e, maganda din iyon," explained Venus.
PLAIN-LOOKING LEADING MEN, REJOICE. Should she enter showbiz, Venus made it clear that she didn't want a very handsome leading man.
"Ako naman kahit sino huwag lang hindi masyadong guwapo," she revealed. "Kasi kapag masyadong guwapo, maraming kaagaw!"
Is she open to signing an exclusive contract with GMA-7?
"Ako po'y napag-uusapan natin 'yan!" laughed Venus. "But I'm very much willing maging part ng Kapuso!"