Model contests are a dime a dozen, but real winners are few and far between. For the most part one assumes the head that wears the crown is an empty one, so a personable, articulate male model like Suhrid Jyoti, winner of Manhunt 2003, comes as a pleasant surprise.
The 24-year-old manages to straddle the thin line between confidence and cockiness: "If anyone is going to represent my country it should be someone like me because I am a man of the world with the heart of a Nepali. It's an answer I'd prepared for the contest but, without sounding egotistical, I do believe I'm a good representative of the modern Nepali youth."
While rehearsed pithy statements form part of every beauty pageant winner's repertoire, Suhrid fits the profile. Having studied in various boarding schools in India ("I never stopped missing home.") Suhrid went to North Eastern University in the US for Industrial Engineering, completed his Masters in Engineering Management and worked for a while with John Hancock in Boston before deciding to come home.
"I feel that all Nepalis should go out and study, see the world but I think they should come back and use what they learned, we can't think just about ourselves," he says earnestly. "That goes for those who want to sell everything and move out of the country too. I think people should have hope, weather it out and help Nepal. Now I'm probably sounding like a politician," he adds with a grin.
Within four months of his return Suhrid was overseeing several projects within the Jyoti Group, the family business, had started hosting a weekly program on Hits fm 91.2 and when the Manhunt was announced, he signed up, despite people laughing outright at his decision. He is reluctant to define himself as a beauty pageant winner, preferring the less loaded 'model contest' instead. Suhrid believes contests like these can "help contestants represent themselves and their country the best they can-not exploit them".
Suhrid's self-confidence is hard won. A shy bookworm, he was often bullied by bigger children till he decided to emulate his school's sports heroes. It took him a year of basketball practice and one crushing rejection before he made the school team and was gratifyingly voted the most valuable player. "It was then that I decided to believed in myself. If I wanted to do something I could, so I reinvented myself, in a manner of speaking," he says. He still loves reading.
The International Manhunt contest is scheduled for February in Shanghai and Suhrid is already working on his strategy. "I'll learn a little Chinese to flatter the crowd, and if there's a swimsuit round I'll have to wax," he says laughingly, adding he needs to brush up on Nepali history and literature. Suhrid is confident about China. "When I win, there'll be other goals to keep me going." Notice he doesn't say "if I win". He plans to set up his own space and try out as a VJ on a Nepali channel. "What's that line.if you love what you do, you never have to work a single day in your life. That's what I want."