When Roland Bunce entered Next’s model competition, he may not have had the highest hopes.
The 24-year-old computing science graduate, who lives in Belfast, is perhaps not what might be considered classically handsome, yet thanks to his confident smile and kindly visage – and tens of thousands of social media users – he is now the most voted for entrant.
Next’s competition invites modelling hopefuls to submit a picture of themselves online. Visitors to the site can then vote for their favourite, with the eventual winner being treated to £2,000 of Next gift cards and “the chance to star in a Next photoshoot”.
At 9am on Friday, Bunce – who according to his Facebook profile enjoys partying and drinking (his interests are listed as WrestleMania, Wrestling and WWE Wrestling) – was in first position, and his page on Next’s site had been liked on Facebook over 26,000 times. In contrast the page for the person in second place had been liked 97 times.
A Facebook page to support Bunce’s bid for stardom has also been established, with the Northern Ireland man having 337 fans at the time of writing.
“Hope you win show folk that you don’t have to be size zero to be a model,” wrote Sam Lawless.
“Good luck Roland! Fed up of seeing stick thin someone else’s ideal models,” Stuart Parry posted.
“I’d just like to say that the people voting to keep Roland B at number one for a laugh do you realise by doing that you are ruining someones chance who really wants to go far in this competition you are taking someone else’s place there are guys and girls who will miss out becasue [sic] of this silly voting and its just simply not fair where do you expect to go with it,” was Cheryl Westerman’s sobering contribution.
Westerman may want to have checked the competition’s regulations – as well as her spelling – before writing that post, as Bunce faces a substantial obstacle before actually being crowned as Next’s top model.
The online public vote is to merely select a top 250 hopefuls, who are then whittled down to 50 by a “panel of judges”, before two winners are selected from that shortlist.