Miss Universe 2010 fourth runner-up Maria Venus Raj is visiting the UAE to conduct modelling workshops in Abu Dhabi from November 30 to December 3. The 28-year-old Filipino-Indian beauty queen and model will be joined by model and actor Mark McMahon for the Ramp Modelling Workshop in UAE 2016 at the Intaleq Training Centre and at the Al Jaheli Theatre of the Armed Forces Officers Club.
“Basically, I’ll be teaching children who are as young as four, five, seven years old. And then probably 13 and above — so [it will be a mix of] adult and children,” says Raj.
Raj will also be joined by Philippine “beauty queen maker” Jonas Gaffud, who has been credited for moulding beauty queens such as the reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, former Miss Philippines and now Victoria’s Secret model Janine Tugonon, and Miss Universe runners-up Shamcey Supsup and MJ Lastimosa.
Watch: Filipino-Indian MissUniverse runner-up VenusRaj live in Dubai.
Gulf News tabloid! sat down with Raj for a one-on-one interview ahead of her workshop in Abu Dhabi.
What does it take to become a model and beauty titlist? What are the skills and qualities needed to become one?
I don’t know really what qualifications are needed to be a model, but I can speak for myself and on behalf of beauty queens. We are taught how to [walk the] ramp like a ramp model, but there’s a difference when walking like a beauty queen and like a model. What supermodels do is different from what we are taught to do. But, based on experience, I’ve learned also a lot from the modelling industry.
I think one important thing is that you should like what you do, especially with children. It’s nice if they like what they do, because you know they’re focused. It’s hard to walk on heels if you don’t want to do what you are doing.
[Walking right] builds confidence in how you carry yourself professionally. I think it also helps in that way.
Looking back, what do you think brought you success in the Binibing Pilipinas Universe and the Miss Universe?
Wow, that was a long time ago — that was like six years. You know I was so young when I joined Miss Universe. I was just 22 and at that time I was not emotionally mature yet. But looking back, I think it was the Lord who really orchestrated everything to happen, because even if I was so beautiful or talented or thin or tall, the physical appearance is just a bonus.
The real reason why I think I won Miss Universe fourth runner-up is because the Lord has a purpose for me to be there. And now I understand why: I am able to influence young ladies, especially children. I am able to share my experience and learnings. Especially in [dealing with] insecurities in life as a woman or as a young girl. When their physical features are not the same as the other women they see on TV or in the magazine, they will feel bad about themselves.
I think one of the reasons the Lord allowed me to be in that situation is for me to become a voice for women who are feeling insecure, that there’s actually no real reason for them to be insecure because we are all wonderfully made. We should celebrate the way we look, not to copy whoever.
What advantages do Filipinos have, if any, in a pageant like Miss Universe?
Well right now there are really huge advantages for a Filipino beauty queen in an international beauty pageant because we’ve been placing in the past few years in many beauty pageants.
I think right now if a Filipina enters an international pageant she is easily recognised because of the country she’s representing. That’s the same theory why the Venezuelans, the Columbians, the Indians have been winning in international pageants. Whenever you see them you always look at them as winners because they are beautiful women. I think the Philippines is in the same situation. Whenever they wear the sash of the Philippines they always look at the Philippines as someone who is beautiful because we are. Someone who is competitive, someone who is strong, someone who can be a spokesperson for the world to see. So right now, it’s really an advantage.
In a few months the new Miss Universe winner will be crowned. What do you think of the chances of Maxine Medina making it a historic back-to-back win for the Philippines? What support and advice are you giving her?
So far I really haven’t talked to Maxine compared to other past beauty queens, but I remember I [gave her advice] about the Q&A portion, which is one of the most tedious part[s] of a beauty pageant. She’s beautiful physically, she knows how to walk and I’m sure she’s emotionally ready. One thing I told her about the Q&A is that you should really know who you are. You should know yourself first before you could give a comment, suggestion or opinion about something. In beauty pageants we are only given 30 seconds to answer a question and people would judge you because of what you say from that one question. I told her whatever comes first to your mind just say it, don’t complicate things, don’t overthink, don’t try to impress the judges. Whatever comes to your mind just say it, because it will come naturally. I know that she’s been training really hard and I’m sure she’s ready right now.
Do you think there is enough support from the government to aspiring beauty titlists?
I think the Philippines has more heavy issues to focus on, not just the beauty pageants. Yes I agree it would give the Philippines a very nice image in the international scene and that it could also help in tourism. But there are also many issues like poverty, education, drugs that the President is really fighting for now.
What are the biggest misconceptions about beauty queens?
As for me I haven’t experienced anything that is negative as a beauty queen. I think [that] people expect you to look good everyday is a pressure.
Don’t miss it!
Register for the Ramp Modelling Workshop in UAE 2016 on December 2 at City Seasons Hotel, Abu Dhabi, from 9am-10am. Dh300 gets you entry and access to a buffet lunch. Call 050-8182966 or 050-7637060.