Of the top 15 contestants who advanced into the final competition of the Miss Universe 2010 Pageant, which was shown live on NBC Monday evening, it can easily be stated that, like all other major beauty pageants, most are on an even footing. They’re all beautiful and usually well-educated. They are all models of seeming physical perfection and look marvelous in evening gowns and swimsuits.
So Miss Mexico 2010, Jimena Navarrete, technically speaking, was on an even plane with Miss Philippines 2010, Maria Venus Raj, and the other 13 finalists when the final round began. But there is something that seems to be tripping up a few contestants in the pageants when it comes down to sealing the deal and taking home the crown — speaking in public. There is that worrisome part of the competition where the judges ask a question and the potential Miss Universe (or Miss USA, or whichever) must respond extemporaneously. As Miss Philippines Maria Venus Raj proved, the interview portion of the pageant can cost you, no matter how popular you are with the audience.
It is often a common complaint among casual observers of beauty pageants that the interview segments are worthless wastes of time, that the women are there to be beautiful and should be judged accordingly. However, Miss Universe, just like the constituent organizations that feed into it (and other organizations like it, such as Miss America), also are looking for a spokesperson. The interview portion of a beauty pageant provides judges with a basis from which to observe and assess the contestants’ abilities at handling questions in stressful situations — like winning a major competition. Presumably, those who are poised, coherent, and give more meaningful answers are those who get the higher scores.
In the case of Miss Philippines 2010 Monday evening, her answer provided several instances that probably cost her points. Unlike Miss Mexico Jimena Navarrete, who went on to become the pageant winner, Miss Philippines came up with what seemed to be a quick answer. It was also one that really didn’t answer the question. To some, it seemed arrogant and elitist. And then there was the profusion of “thank yous.”
Miss Universe 2010 judge William Baldwin was called upon by co-host Bret Michaels to deliver the question to Miss Philippines 2010. “What is one big mistake you made in your life,” he asked, “and what did you do to make it right?”
Maria Venus Raj’s level of excitability was high and evident from the moment she began her answer. Her words were rushed as she thanked William Baldwin for his question. She then got a roar of approval from the crowd in Las Vegas when she acknowledged the audience. She continued:
“You know what, sir, in my 22 years of existence, I can say there is nothing major, major — I mean, problems — that I have done in my life, because I am very confident with my family with the love that they are given to me. So… Thank you so much that I am here! Thank you, thank so much!”
Her answer was less than fluent, her English disjointed. (It was later suggested by many that perhaps she should have used a translator, as did Miss Mexico 2010.) She openly admitted that she couldn’t think of ever making a mistake (which could have been seen by the judges as arrogance — a perfect beauty queen? — or untruthfulness or hedging or an inability to marshal her thoughts well while under pressure). She did seem to be attempting to let everyone know that her lack of mistakes was due to the values her family had instilled, but she did not articulate the thought well. And then she thanked everyone again.
Besides the incoherency of her answer, many have wondered why she thanked everyone for being at the pageant. Many were not privy to Miss Philippines’ problems with her crown in the Philippines prior to getting to the Miss Universe contest. A problem with her birth certificate caused her to lose her crown until the matter was straightened out. With her crown restored, Maria Venus Raj still had trouble obtaining a visa and almost did not make it to Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, it seems that her excitability over simply getting to the Pageant may have interfered with an answer in the interview segment that could have garnered her the Miss Universe 2010 crown.
It is telling that the official Internet page for the NBC coverage of the Miss Universe 2010 Pageant, “Pageant Life,” presents the interview round answers for the Top 5, except for the answer offered by Miss Philippines 2010.
The Miss Universe 2010 Pageant was held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and was hosted by NBC’s Natalie Morales and rocker Bret Michaels.
The video of Miss Philippines 2010 Maria Venus Raj answering William Baldwin’s question follows.
“Miss Universe 2010 Pageant,” NBC Television