Maria Venus Bayonito Raj was born July 7, 1988 to an Indian father and a Filipina mother. Upon birth, she was taken by her mother to Bato, Camarines Sur in Bicol Region, Philippines and was registered as a Philippine-born child to Roman Catholic parents. She grew up with her mother, a tenant farmer and dressmaker.
Venus Raj lived in a nipa hut made of wood, bamboo and anahaw leaves with no electricity in the middle of a sprawling rice field in the rural town for more than twenty years. Youngest among five children, she started joining local beauty pageants at 17. With her victories in major contests, Venus Raj had started to buy land on installment basis for her mother as a means of improving their livelihood.
Raj obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Communications Arts, major in Journalism, at Bicol University in Albay, with Latin honours (Cum Laude). She graduated through the scholarship from Francis Papica Foundation. She worked as an Information Assistant for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region V and as a part-time fashion model.
Miss Bicolandia 2007
Miss Philippines-Earth 2008 (4th runner-up)
Binibining Pilipinas-Universe, (dethronement and reinstatement)
In 2009, Raj joined the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant and made the 2010 batch of candidates and was eventually crowned Binibining Pilipinas Universe on March 06, 2010. She represented the Republic of the Philippines as a candidate for the Miss Universe 2010 beauty pageant.
A few weeks after her coronation, Raj was dethroned by the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc., citing alleged inconsistencies between her birth certificate and the personal account of her birth. Raj was briefly replaced by second runner-up Helen Nicolette Henson since first runner-up Diane Elaine S. Necio was only 17 years old and did not meet the age requirement policies of Miss Universe. Raj's sudden dethronement caused a heavy uproar among her Filipino supporters. Some fans conducted online petitions, signature campaigns, Facebook fan pages, blogs, forums and petition letters to the Miss Universe Organisation to report the irregularities.
Raj had planned to take legal action to against Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc.'s decision in court, but she also weighed in on her decision because of its potential impact to her future career. 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 Organisation regarding the issue.
A representative from Miss Universe Organisation looked into her case. In an interview, Raj 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."
On April 10, 2010, the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. allowed Raj to reclaim her title due to humanitarian reasons. In May 19, 2010, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs issued Raj a Philippine passport thereby attesting to her Filipino citizenship. According to the Department of Foreign Ministry, Raj is a Philippine citizen by virtue of the jus sanguinis principle (“right of blood”), a basic right provided by the Philippine Constitution which bestows upon a person the citizenship of his father or mother regardless of where the person was born, thus declaring her of Filipino citizenship.
Currently, Raj holds the record as the first-ever dethroned Binibining Pilipinas to have successfully attempted for a reinstatement of a Binibining Pilipinas crown.
Miss Universe 2010
In August 2010, Raj flew to the United States and took part in the 2010 Miss Universe pageant. As part of the six delegates which were handpicked for a media tour. Along with Ms. Australia, Ms. Colombia, Ms. Haiti, Ms. Mexico, Ms. Puerto Rico and Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez were scheduled for several television appearances prior to the actual pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada. In an event held in Diablos Cantina at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, Raj won in a Chicken Wing Eating Contest, increasing her popularity even more during the run of the pageant.
During the Miss Universe question and answer portion, Raj was asked by American actor William Baldwin about the biggest mistake that she made in her life and what she did to make it right. She replied, "You know what, sir, in my 22 years of existence, I can say that there's nothing major major, I mean problem that I've done in my life because I'm very confident with my family, with the love that they are giving to me. So thank you so much that I'm here. Thank you, thank you so much!" Raj received the highest rating in the Miss Universe website, with 3.54 points, the highest-ever for a Filipina delegate.
While competing at Miss Universe 2010 in Las Vegas, Raj was emotionally distressed to hear about the death of Filipina-German beauty queen Melody Gersbach and make-up artist Alden Orense in a car accident. Gersbach, a fellow Bicolana who previously competed in Miss International 2009, was one of Raj's coaches in her preparation for the Miss Universe pageant.
source: (photo) chitchatchica.com, wikipedia.com