By ROBERT R. REQUINTINA- Manila Bulletin.com.ph
August 22, 2010, 5:02pm
Maria Venus Raj (Reuters)
Her heart still aches, but Miss Philippines Maria Venus Raj is composed and ready to shine in the 2010 Miss Universe Pageant on Monday night in Las Vegas (Tuesday morning in Manila).
Raj, 22, admitted she was emotionally distressed upon learning about the death of her friend and trainer 2009 Miss International semi-finalist Melody Gersbach last Saturday.
A radio report quoted Raj as saying that she had been weeping over the news.
Gersbach died in a road accident with her make-up artist Alden Orense and Santos Ramos, driver, in Bula town, Camarines Sur, around 11 a.m. Saturday.
Gersbach was one of the Top 15 semi-finalists in the 2009 Miss International beauty contest held in Japan.
“Venus is very devastated. I don’t think I can get a statement from her since they are on rehearsals and security men won’t allow us to talk to her,’’ said an assistant of Stella Marquez Araneta, chairperson of the Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI), said. The statement was sent through a text message.
The BPCI said that Raj is composed and ready for the contest despite the tr agic accident involving her friend.
Mrs. Araneta is now in Las Vegas to support Raj for the Miss Universe contest.
As this developed, the Miss Universe Organization assured the public that the worldwide telecast of the pageant on Monday night (Tuesday morning in Manila) will be for general patronage.
They made the assurance several days after they were criticized for the recent photo shoot in which some of the candidates posed topless.
But billionaire Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe franchise, has defended the photo shoot, saying he has no problems with it.
“We are in a different age. They are a little bit sexy, but I’ll tell you what – everybody’s watching so I have nothing against it. The Miss USA pageant and the Miss Universe pageant just got renewed for three years by NBC. The ratings have been terrific. If you look at Miss America, it’s now off-network television – and we’re doing better than ever, so I really have no problem with it,” Trump said.
Trump also stressed that the candidates were not forced to pose topless and could choose to pose on a conservative manner.
A representive of the Miss Universe Organization also said that nudity was not an issue for many of the countries represented by the pageant.
“The contestants who compete at Miss Universe are diverse as they represent more than 82 countries around the globe. Many of their cultures embrace nudity,” the rep said in a statement.
A day before the pageant, Raj continued to lead the online popularity survey sponsored by the Miss Universe Organization.
The Top 15 candidates are: Miss Philippines, Miss Bolivia, Miss Venezuela, Miss Jamaica, Miss Thailand, Miss Peru, Miss Indonesia, Miss Guatemala, Miss Mexico, Miss Colombia, Miss Russia, Miss Puerto Rico, Miss Brazil, Miss Haiti and Miss Trinidad and Tobago.
Meanwhile, details of the Gersbach interment have not yet been finalized but initial reports said that her body will be flown to Manila on Wednesday.
Her remains will be brought to the Heritage Park in Taguig City, Metro Manila, for a wake until Thursday, August 26.
Gersbach’s mother has reportedly informed the BPCI that the casket of Gersbach will be closed because the injuries she sustained were severe.
Unconfirmed reports also said that the beauty queen will either be buried in Bicol or Angeles City.