Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Venus Raj: From Dethroned Philippines Beauty Queen to Miss Universe 4th Runner-Up

She has been described as, "The dethroned beauty who got her crown back", by many commentators on beauty pageants, lifestyle, fashion, etc. Yes, there is no other way to describe this beauty with exceptional courage for her age, and she is the quintessential beauty with brains.

She has had the worst of humiliations from all who were supposed to support her, with the exception of a few well-meaning persons. Firstly, on March 29, 2010, Raj was dethroned from the title of Binibining Pilipinas Universe citing inconsistencies in her birth certificate by the organizers Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc (BPCI) who replaced her with 2nd runner up Helen Nicolette Henson, who got the chance because the first runner-up Diane Elaine S. Necio was only 17 years old and did not meet the age specifications of Miss Universe Organization.

However, her Filipino supporters and fans ran online petitions, signature campaigns, Facebook fan groups, blogs, forums and sounded petitions to BPCI, forcing them to reinstall her crown on April 10, 2010. Among Raj's supporters were several beauty queen friends, notably 1982 Binibining Pilipinas-Universe and actress Maria Isabel Lopez and Miss International 1979, Mrs. World-Philippines 2005 and Supermodel Melanie Marquez.

Then there was the citizenship row, as it was required that Maria Venus Raj obtain a valid Philippine passport as proof of her true citizenship. However, on May 19, 2010, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued her a Philippines passport, stating that she is ‘a Philippines citizen by virtue of the jus sanguinis principle’ (right of blood), which bestows upon a person the citizenship of his father or mother regardless of where the person was born.

It may be noted that Maria Venus Raj was born out of wedlock in Doha, Qatar, where her mother was working - she has Indian lineage. Upon separation of her parents, Raj was taken to Bato, Camarines Sur in Bicol Region, Philippines as an infant and was registered by an aunt as Philippine-born to Roman Catholic parents. It was her mother, a former tenant farmer and dressmaker who brought Maria Venus Raj up as a child. Raj lived in a nipa hut made of wood, bamboo and anahaw leaves with no electricity in the middle of a paddy field in rural Bato town for over twenty years. As the youngest of five children, Maria Venus Raj started joining local beauty pageants at 17 years old, and had to put up many hardships.

Humiliated by BPCI’s dethroning her, Raj had contemplated legal action challenging their decision in a court of law, and Lawyer Francis Padua Papica, who sponsored Raj’s college education, and another counsel volunteered to defend her for free. Through Rafa Delfin, director of the website www.criticalbeauty.com, an appeal regarding Raj's case was sent to the Miss Universe Organization regarding the issue.

In a Philippines TV appearance, Raj said that a representative of the Miss Universe Organization spoke with her and they looked into her case. In the interview, she said, “My fight is now more than just chasing a dream. It is about clearing my soiled reputation. It is about standing up for people who are poor and born out of wedlock. It is a fight for acceptance.”

Though she finished fourth runner-up to Mexico's Ximena Navarrete in Miss Universe 2010, and became the first Filipina delegate to place in the semifinals after eleven years.

Most importantly, Raj holds the record as the first-ever dethroned Binibining Pilipinas to have successfully fought and regained the Binibining Pilipinas crown, and also to become at least the fourth runner-up in the Miss Universe Pageant.

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