Aug. 24, 2010— -- Miss Universe contestant Maria Venus Raj said Monday night that she's never made a major mistake. That may have been the biggest mistake of her life.
The 22-year-old Miss Philippines was on stage at the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, in the final round of judging before a live studio and television audience. Under the glare of the lights and television cameras, actor and judge Billy Baldwin asked Raj what you might think would be a simple question.
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"What is one big mistake that you've made in your life, and what did you do to make it right?" Baldwin asked.
"You know what, sir? In my 22 years of existence, I can say there is nothing major, major, I mean, problem that I have done in my life," said Raj with a wide smile on her face, adding that she thought it was a "great question."
After she expertly negotiated platform heels and a bikini, Miss Philippines had been favored to win the whole contest. But with that answer? Raj took fourth, and Miss Mexico Jimena Navarrete took the title. No answer, no crown, it seems.
To be fair, Raj is not the only one who has struggled with that question. Everyone from presidents to job applicants have struggled with their response.
President George W. Bush was asked to name his biggest mistake in an interview.
"Mmm... I wish I, you would have given me a, this written, a question ahead of time," the president coughed out.
Plenty of smart people find that one question to be a tough one.
"No one likes to admit they make mistakes, especially in a high pressure situation like a job interview, where they're being judged anyway," said Louise Kursmark, director of the Resume Writing Academy.
Experts say job applicants should be prepared to answer the "mistakes question," but always be sure to keep their answers professional.
"You don't have to bare your soul and tell them everything about yourself," said Kursmark. "You want to pick an example that's truthful, honest and was a learning experience for you."
And there's plenty of evidence that fessing up to mistakes can reap rewards.
Remember Jim Joyce, the Major League Baseball umpire who blew pitcher Armando Galarraga's hopes of a perfect game with a mistaken call earlier this summer?
"No one feels worse than I do," Joyce said in a tearful press conference after the game. "I took away the perfect call from that kid."
Joyce ended up being praised for his frank acknowledgement, and he reconciled with Galarraga at home plate the next day.
Everyone makes mistakes, and even the Miss Universe crown doesn't come with royal infallibility.