Is this the face of the Next top model?
Published 03/06/2011 | 11:55
A Co Down man is in pole position to win a major online modelling competition after it was hijacked by pranksters.
Roland Bunce (24), entered himself into the competition to win the £2,000 prize and has quickly rocketed to the top spot after his profile 'went viral'.
The competition, organised on behalf of high-street store Next, has attracted 5,000 hopefuls bidding to become the face of the fashion outlet.
Roland, a computer science graduate from Bangor, is currently sitting at the number one spot after thousands of people voted for him.
His popularity surged after his profile page was retweeted 1,500 times and 'liked' on Facebook by more than 10,000 fans. The social networking sites urged voters to "help Roland break the conventional beauty barrier."
His backers are spreading the slogan: "A vote for Roland is a vote for reality."
On his Facebook fan page, Roland thanked his fans, writing: "Thanks for all for the support and thanks to the person who started the group. I'm overwhelmed."
Miffed organisers are failing to see the funny side of the internet campaigns. They declined to comment on Roland leading the field and said they will not contact any contestant until deadline for voting has passed.
However, they said they had no reason to suspect Roland is not a genuine entrant.
A Next spokeswoman said: "It's a public vote. People can vote for whoever they like without restriction. The competition is open to any age, height, size or look."
The public vote, which has been running for three days and closes on June 30, will decide the top 250 models.
A panel of modelling industry experts will shortlist 50 entrants to attend a 'boot camp' and then pick two winners at a grand final in July.
The winners will receive a £2,000 shopping spree in Next, a photoshoot for the store and an introduction to a top modelling agency.