Long, lean, leggy Venus Raj, fourth runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant 2010, always looks glammed up. But she confesses that she is a frugal shopper.
A big part of her enviable collection of shoes, bags and clothes are gifts from friends and fans. “I’m very practical,” she told Living Stars. “I cannot spend thousands of pesos on something I will use just a few times. That could pay for the tuition of my nephews and nieces… or the renovation of our house in Camarines Sur.”
Precisely for this outlook, the health and drug store chain Watsons picked Venus as primary endorser. An earlier campaign featured her with mom Ester. Now she shares the spotlight with best buddy Marie Ann Umali, fellow beauty queen Shamcey Supsup and young mom Fatima Rabago.
Vicky Encarnacion, Watsons Philippines marketing director, said: “We see how much she loves her mom. We’d like young women who shop in our stores to emulate that.”
When buying toiletries, Venus, who made “major, major” a catchphrase, is never in the minor league. “I buy big bottles of shampoo or liquid soap, especially when my siblings, nieces and nephews come to visit. I save in the long run.”
Just one look at a dress or shirt “even on a mannequin,” and Venus knows if it will suit her or not. Her advice for other girls is to go for comfort over style. “No matter how trendy, if a dress is not comfortable, you won’t look good in it,” she explained. “I also choose clothes that reflect my personality—laid-back, fun. I like bright colors (I’m a cheerful person). I love Barbie Doll dresses!”
For evening gowns, she turns to top designers Rajo Laurel, Francis Libiran, Eric Pineda and Veejay Floresca.
“They know me very well,” she said. “I tell them only the color and style. When I get the gown, it’s sure to fit me.”
She switches red-carpet styles depending on the occasion. “For pageants, I wear beaded gowns.” For high-fashion gatherings, she goes for a modish silhouette “like my Rajo gown, with long sleeves and a turtle neck.”
A size 9, Venus finds it hard to shop for the right pair in local stores. “We have no half sizes here,” she said. “Shoe fit is crucial. You don’t want pinched feet if you have to walk far or stand for a long time.”
Her glittery Steve Maddens are comfy, she insisted, though they have six-inch heels. The pair was a gift from US-based pageant enthusiast John Morante, a bank executive.
When the going gets tough on the red carpet, Venus brings out her secret weapon: Footzyfolds (foldable flat shoes). “You can put them in your purse and change into them when your feet start hurting.” The flats were a gift from fellow beauty queen Karla Bautista, Binibining Pilipinas World 2004, who distributes them locally.
Venus would never buy luxury totes but would use one if she got it as a gift. But she recently splurged on luggage. “I went for Samsonite because it’s a good investment. I need my travel bags sturdy.”
She also invested in a top-of-the-line makeup case, which can be fitted with light bulbs. “This I need for work,” she said.
She was about to pay for the Suesh case, Venus said, but boyfriend Andrei Felix beat her to the cashier.
She is finicky about cosmetics. She was loyal to a certain brand, till she realized it looked “too heavy. I switched to a lighter brand.”
She gets her makeup sponges from Watsons and recently, for the first time, she tried some new red lipstick at the store. “A misconception is that dark-skinned girls [like me] should avoid red lipstick because it’s too strong. But there are different shades of red; you just have to find the right one for your skin tone.”
Fave accessories, gadgets
She’s not a big fan of bangles, beads or other trinkets. “I prefer earrings to bracelets or pendants,” she said. “When you’re wearing a gown, a simple diamond stud should be enough.”
More than a tiara, she considers her hair the ultimate accessory, her crowning glory. “I put my hair up in a bun or pony tail and I’m good to go.”
Venus’ favorite timepiece is a Tendence. “It’s a gift, from Tendence. It goes with everything.”
And she never leaves home without her headphones, chargers and Samsung cell phone.
A favorite scent is Ferragamo Incanto, although “I would use any fresh and feminine scent.”
On mom’s behest, she loads up on sun block, especially when beach-bound.
She loves her Ferragamo dark glasses. “Very classy,” she said. “Even on the beach, you look and feel like a goddess.” She is partial to smaller, square frames. “But when I want to look like a beauty queen, I wear big glamorous styles.”
Between the bikini and the one-piece suit, Venus opts for the former. “I have a slim waist and a bikini shows it off.”
She has quite a collection of bikinis. One of these is the very special lavender pair by Dar Be Dar. “I wore it in the Miss Universe swimsuit competition,” Venus said. “I don’t wear it often; I don’t want it to get wet.”
A precious souvenir.