|Beauty pageant titleholder|
|Born||Maria Venus Bayonito Raj
July 7, 1988
|Hometown||Bato, Camarines Sur, Philippines|
|Agency||Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc.|
|Height||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
|Title(s)||Miss Philippines Eco Tourism 2008
Binibining Pilipinas Universe 2010
|Miss Philippines Earth 2008
(Miss Philippines Eco Tourism 2008)
Binibining Pilipinas 2010
Miss Universe 2010
Maria Venus Bayonito Raj (born July 7, 1988) is a Filipino beauty queen, TV personality, model, and actress. She was crowned Binibining Pilipinas-Universe 2010 (Miss Universe-Philippines) on March 6, 2010, during the pageant's Grand Coronation Night at the Araneta Coliseum. She represented the Philippines in the 2010 Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, and placed fourth runner-up to Ximena Navarrete of Mexico.
Maria Venus Raj was born to an Indian father and a Filipino mother, the youngest of five children. As an infant, Raj was taken by her mother to Bato, Camarines Sur in the Bicolandia, and was registered by an aunt as a Philippine-born child. Raj grew up with her mother, a former tenant farmer and dressmaker.
For the first two decades of her life, Raj lived in a nipa hut made of wood, bamboo and anahaw leaves, with no electricity, in the middle of a sprawling rice field. She allegedly used rice paddy dikes for her early training, where she eventually developed her distinctive walk.
Raj started out by joining local beauty pageants, as well as oratorical contests at San Vicente High School, where her English teacher served as her coach. Using the prize money won in major contests, she to bought land on an installment basis for her mother as a means of improving their livelihood.
Raj obtained her bachelor's degree in Communication Arts, Major in Journalism, at Bicol University in Albay, with Latin honors (Cum Laude). She graduated through the scholarship that she received from the Francis Papica Foundation. She initially worked as an Information Assistant for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for Region V. It was at this time that she also worked as a part-time fashion model in both her native Bicol and Manila.
Miss Philippines-Earth 2008
Following her victory as Miss Bicolandia, Raj represented Legazpi City and competed in the Miss Philippines-Earth 2008, and was named as Miss Philippines Earth Eco Tourism 2008, and fourth runner-up to eventual Miss Earth 2008 winner Karla Henry on May 11, 2008 at the Crowne Plaza Galleria, Manila.
After joining Miss Philippines-Earth in 2008, Raj took a break from beauty contests and worked as an Information Assistant at the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. On March 6, 2010, she was crowned Binibining Pilipinas Universe during the pageant's Grand Coronation Night at the Araneta Coliseum. She won the right to represent the Philippines in the 2010 Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. She also won the special awards Best in Long Gown, Best in Philippine Terno, and was a co-winner for Miss Friendship – a rare feat for a major title winner.
A few weeks after her coronation, Raj was dethroned by Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc., citing alleged inconsistencies between her birth certificate and the personal account of her birth. Raj was briefly succeeded by Second Runner-up Helen Nicolette Henson, since First Runner-up Diane Elaine S. Necio–also from Bicol–was only 17 years old and thus below the contest's minimum age requirement.
Raj had planned to take legal action on the BPCI's decision, but she also weighed in on her decision because of its potential impact to her future career. Francis Padua Papica (whose foundation provided Raj’s university scholarship) and another lawyer volunteered to act as her counsel pro bono; they led supporters in sending an appeal on Raj's case to the Miss Universe Organization
In a local television appearance, Raj stated that a representative for Miss Universe 2010 spoke with her and looked into her case. In the same 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.”
On April 10, 2010, the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. allowed Raj to reclaim her title due to humanitarian reasons. An additional requirement that Raj should legally obtain a valid Philippine passport as proof of her true citizenship was also requested by the pageant organizers. On 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 Affairs, 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.
Upon issuance of her Philippine passport, Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. announced that it would reinstate Raj. She is the first dethroned Binibining Pilipinas to have her crown reinstated.
In line with the dethronement netizens and showbiz personalities gave their support to Miss Raj, one of the people who openly supported her was the Canadian model Andrew Philip who later on became a part of the Bravo Reality Show Below Deck, Philip was very vocal about his support of Venus in continuing on with the competition, after the competition Andrew was asked to give a special message to Venus that was aired in The Sweet Life in QTV a sub network of GMA Network. It was reported that Andrew and Venus finally met each other at the LEE Fashion Week in Mall of Asia in 2010 
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, Raj along with Jesinta Campbell of Australia, Natalia Navarro of Colombia, Sarodj Bertin of Haiti, Ximena Navarrete of Mexico, Mariana Vicente of Puerto Rico and Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez were scheduled for several television appearances prior to the actual pageant in Las Vegas. During the announcement of the Top 15 Raj was the last delegate to be called, ending a 10 year drought for the Philippines. Raj eventually advanced to the top 5, eventually finishing as 4th Runner-Up behind 3rd Runner-Up Anna Poslavska (Ukraine), 2nd Runner-Up Jesinta Campbell (Australia), 1st Runner-Up Yendi Phillips (Jamaica) and winner Ximena Navarrete (Mexico). 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, to which she simply replied that she had never made any big mistakes in her life. Raj received the highest rating in the Miss Universe website, with 3.54 points, the highest-ever for a Philippine delegate. 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. She is the only representative of an Asian country to enter the Top 5.
While competing at Miss Universe 2010 in Las Vegas, Raj was emotionally distressed to hear about the death of Filipino-German beauty queen Melody Gersbach and make-up artist Alden Orense in a car accident. Gersbach, a fellow Bicolana who previously competed and placed in the Top 15 at Miss International 2009 in China, was one of Raj's coaches in her preparation for the Miss Universe pageant. Raj was one of favorites from the crowd in the pageant preliminary and final show.
Prior and after Miss Universe, Raj guested on multiple networks as guests. Eventually she was offered hosting stints including a spot in the morning show Umagang Kay Ganda. In 2011, Raj signed up an exclusive contract with ABS-CBN, coinciding with the network gaining the airing rights of the Binibining Pilipinas pageant for at least five years. In 2013, She left on hosting Umagang Kay Ganda due on the reformat of the show. Since she isn’t so busy with showbiz commitments, Venus is currently taking up her Masters in Community Development at the University of the Philippines Diliman and lends a hand to the group called “Care For Children.”
|2011-2013||Umagang Kay Ganda||Host|
|2012||Wansapanataym: Bye, Bye Bangungot||Diwata|
|Maalaala Mo Kaya: Korona||Herself|
|2014||Wagas||January Isaac||GMA News TV|
- Beauty Mania .biz® – your #1 Beauty, Pageant, and Showbiz Blog! (March 7, 2010)
- 'Goddess' in distress. by Butch Francisco (The Philippine Star) April 6, 2010
- Ephraim Aguilar Dethroned Bicol beauty queen fights for dream. Inquirer Southern Luzon. September 4, 2010
- Venus Raj. Pinoy Profile (July 7, 1988).
- Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2010.
- Lyn Cacha (August 31, 2010). "Venus Raj: From rice paddy girl to beauty queen". Philippine Online Chronicles. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- Venus Raj given chance to reclaim Bb. Pilipinas-Universe title.
- MANILA BULLETIN 5/21/10: Venus Raj gets her passport, braces for Miss Universe contest. Mb.com.ph (August 23, 2010). Retrieved on 2012-05-12.
- 'Major major:' Venus Raj's legacy? ABS-CBN News (August 24, 2010)
- Members. Miss Universe. Retrieved on 2012-05-12.
- "Raj a top choice for Miss Universe crown". The Manila Bulletin. Retrieved on 2012-05-12.
- Another mishap: beauty queen dies". The Manila Bulletin, (August 2, 2010). Retrieved on 2012-05-12.
- Robert R. Requintina Venus mourns, but is ready to shine. August 22, 2010
- Santos, Rhea. "Venus Raj declines Willie Revillame’s offer, signs up with ABS-CBN". Push.com.ph. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
- "Second chance: January Isaac and Wade Bodlovic Love Story sa 'Wagas'". GMA Network. 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
|Awards and achievements|
|Miss Universe 4th Runner-Up
|Miss Universe Philippines
Anna Katrina Bautista
|Miss Philippines-Earth Eco Tourism