The It Factor Isn’t It? Venus Raj as Miss Universe 2010

venus risesRevised 24 August at 0820 hours
MANILA - The broadcast of the Miss Universe beauty pageant is yet at 0930 hours 24 August 2010; it’s 0231 hours as I begin typing the very first words of this essay, following my jottings yesterday afternoon after I read the blog of Joyce Burton Titular on “Making My List and Checking it TWICE!!!,” where she lists down the items she looks for in a beauty contestant (22 August, ABQ):

(1) beauty of face & beauty of smile
(2) body & pose
(3) personality
(4) intelligence
(5) “that X-Factor that you just can’t describe.”

Beauty. When I was a child, I was attracted to girls; now that I am a man (well, I’m 69), I am attracted to beauty. Never mind the smile; ask the men what beauty is, and they will approach her instantly.

Body & pose and personality, I will fuse them together into projection. As a male, I have always been interested in projection.

Joyce lists down her “fearless” Top 20 choice, alphabetically by country. In that ABQ list, Joyce includes, naturally, Venus Raj, Miss Philippines-Universe 2010: candidate of Albania Angela Martini, Colombia Natalia Navarro, Czech Republic Jitka Valkova, Denmark Ena Sandra Causevic, Dominican Republic Eva Arias, France Malika Menard, Guatemala Jessica Scheel, Ireland Rozanna Purcell, Israel Bat-El Jobi, Jamaica Yendi Phillips, Mexico Jimena Navarrete, Norway Melinda Elvenes, Russia Irina Antonenko, South Africa Nicole Flint, Spain Adriana Reveron, Thailand Fonthip Watcharatrakul, USA Rima Fakih, and Venezuela Marelisa Gibson.

My peerless list? Of course, I have only one name in my Top 20 list: candidate of the Philippines Maria Venus Raj, a Bicolana, Youth Ambassador of Climate Change Action of the province of Albay. Because I’m extremely biased for this girl from my own country. Because, crown or no crown, she’s a Princess to me. Because, win or lose, she’s already a winner - see my “Aphrodite Rising. Venus in earthy dimensions” (10 August, American Chronicle).

Meanwhile, it was “that X-Factor” in Joyce’s list that sent me to thinking about The It Factor, because she says “that (which) you can’t describe” - and when you tell me I can’t, that’s exactly why I’m going to try and do it. Does Venus have that X Factor anyway?

From my notesbook (I call it that because that’s where I jot down my notes with my favorite Parker Rolling Ball pen), here are my first thoughts on what I prefer to call The It Factor:

The It Factor is not indefinable, not undecipherable. You can call it self-confidence, or self-assurance. It is not charisma. In a Beauty & Brains contest like Miss Universe, which may be more Brains than Beauty, it’s your self-confidence that will favor you over the others. I’m focusing on the Q&A. When a question is unexpected, or even if it is not, your self-confidence will give you the best answer. You can’t rehearse it; you can’t train for it. Either you have it or you don’t.

Miss Philippines Margie Moran (1973 Miss Universe) was asked, “What’s the difference between being Miss Universe and being a Filipina?” Her reply: “Being Miss Universe is like having a birthstone; you may lose it. Being a Filipina is like having a birthmark; it’s forever” (Banana Smoothie, WordPress). Clever.

Miss Philippines Gloria Diaz (1969 Miss Universe) was asked, “If the man from the moon landed in your hometown, what would you do to entertain him?” Her reply: “I guess since he has been in the moon so long, he would enjoy anything that an ordinary man would” (Banana Smoothie, WordPress). Cool.

Binibining Pilipinas-Universe 1999 Miriam Quiambao had It but she didn’t recognize It. She tripped on her gown, but she got up and went on as if nothing happened; she got the roar of approval of the spectators. That was Exhibit A that Miriam had It. But when it came to the very last question, she changed her answer in mid-thought and faltered; she didn’t give the first answer that came to mind; she didn’t trust her instinct; rather, she went after what she thought the judges would like to hear.

Question: “If a Miss Universe were to become pregnant, should she be allowed to continue her reign?”
Miriam: “That’s a difficult situation to be into. If she has pursued her goals, she should continue.”

That was her “On second thought ...” Her very first thought was, “I believe that she should step down because bringing forth a child into the world is more important than anything else” (Giovanni Paolo J Yazon, Manila Standard Today, 29 August 2008, presented in Beauty in Pageants). That would have been the bright answer.

Gloria Diaz and Margie Moran are not gorgeous beauties, not stunningly beautiful, but they won. So, after all, The It Factor may not be beauty or projection or self-confidence but Insight and Talent, which makes it The IT Factor. You may have the support of your whole country but you may not have the insight into the best answer. And the best answer is a witty answer, that is, clever or original or both. And having said that, I have the insight to finally call it The WIT Factor.

It’s not consciously cultivated. It’s spontaneous. It’s in your being.

Now then, the final question is: Does Venus Raj have The WIT Factor?

Giovanni Paolo J Yazon quotes Venus as saying (21-22 August, Manila Standard Today)

A lot of people ask me if I am pressured with all the attention or hype I am getting from the media and over the Internet. Well, I think it’s more of a confidence booster. It’s like all my worries disappear when I find out that more and more people keep on believing in me, who keep on supporting and praying for me.

That’s a paradigm shift; that’s wit.

Will Venus be the 1st illegitimate child to become Miss Universe ever? Venus says (Yazon as cited):

I’ve been searching for my dad in Google… and whenever I get to see people named Vincent Raj, I immediately send them an e-mail. They answer back, but it’s always, ‘I am sorry I am not the one you are looking for.’ I wouldn’t know where he is right now [or if he’s still alive]. If it’s God’s will that we would meet in the future, I would thank him. I will not say bad things to him or blame him for whatever happened to me. If there would be an opportunity for me to hug him, I would do that. But I also love my stepfather so much. He made me feel that I am indeed his real daughter.

Another smart answer, not smart ass.

What about if she becomes Miss Universe 2010? Yazon quotes her as saying:

Oh, if I win that crown, it would not only be God’s gift to me, but to each and every one of us. It’s been 37 years since a Filipina was last hailed as the most beautiful woman in the universe. It’s about time for the Philippines to be back again in the global beauty map.

That’s spunk. Add spunk to The WIT Factor.

Miss Universe 1st Runner-Up 1999 Miriam Quiambao says about Venus Raj (Anne S Alejo, 20 August, mb.com.ph):

Many have high hopes for her. I think she has what it takes: she’s tall, morena, beautiful and smart. Her exotic looks will definitely catch their attention. (Morena is tan inclining to black - spanishdict.com).

I'll take 1 word from what Miriam says; in 1 word, The WIT Factor is: Smart.

As a non-judge, I wouldn’t be smart if I didn’t choose Venus Raj over the others as Miss Universe 2010. The Board of Judges of Miss Universe wouldn’t be smart if they choose somebody else. I’d be forced to call them The ...WIT Factor.

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