Every time Muhammad Fuad went on stage at the Manhunt Singapore 2015 finals on Saturday, he forced himself to put on a brave front.
It was tough hearing other contestants getting loud cheers from their support groups in the audience when he had none.
Mr Fuad's parents were working and his girlfriend was in hospital recovering from a slipped disc.
Having no family or friends in the crowd, and seeing the strong competition around him, the graphic designer had resigned himself to going home empty-handed.
So it came as a shock when he was announced the winner.
Mr Fuad, 25, told The New Paper: "I went blank. All I kept thinking was that they were going to call someone else's name and I'm going to go home and eat pizza for the first time in eight months.
"I didn't go out partying after the finals were over, I went straight home to tell my parents, who couldn't believe it either.
"I was quiet and standing in one corner on stage the whole night while some of the other contestants really stood out and had so much support from the crowd. I still can't believe that I won."
Fuad said he had a lot weighing on his mind, especially since he was worried about his girlfriend's injury.
However, this did not deter him from impressing the judges during the question and answer segment.
Fuad was asked what he thought were the three qualities that a Manhunt contestant should have apart from a good physique.
His first quality was discipline, in terms of always being punctual and well-groomed because these things say a lot about a person.
Next was personality, because contestants have to speak up so that they would not be "hidden" and be able to show their true style. Third, he said a good heart was a must.
Fuad said the Manhunt contestants became very close.
"On Saturday night, when we had to say goodbye to each other, there was a hole in my heart as we have come to treat each other like family," he said.
But he is excited about the doors that winning Manhunt Singapore could open for him.
Being an actor or other roles in the entertainment industry is a whole new world that would bring challenges and fulfilment, he said.
Manhunt Singapore organiser Samuel Seow told TNP that Fuad's win made history of sorts.
He said: "There were occasions during the competition I was afraid the external factors would overwhelm him. I never asked what these factors were, but I could see he was troubled.
"I'm happy the judges chose a winner who understands the challenges of life and who strives to triumph through them. He is also the second Malay winner in 27 years of competition. The last Malay winner was 25 years ago. So we made history."
In contrast to Fuad, who had no personal supporters in the crowd, Manhunt Singapore (Senior) 2015 winner Sammy Phua, 33, was one of those with the most.
Each time the gym owner came on stage, his entourage of 10 supporters, including his wife and gym clients, cheered him on like a rock star, making him feel like a winner from the start of the event held at Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore.
Mr Phua told TNP: "I was really grateful for the support because I am the last person who would take off my shirt in public.
"I'm always in the shell I built, I work quietly and feel uncomfortable thinking about people judging me.
"So hearing all the screams and whistling gave me a lot of encouragement."
Mr Phua said joining Manhunt Singapore was his wife's idea.
Said his wife, Ms Pearly Ng, 31, a personal trainer: "I wanted him to come out of his shell and network with people and become more confident. It was an experience seeing him struggle with the lows of the competition, such as the exhaustion and moodiness from dieting and working out often."
After the win, Ms Ng rushed to get the cakes that she had bought for him from the hotel bar.
Mr Phua's birthday was in September, but he could not have any cake then due to his strict diet.
He said: "My wife even bought two types of cake for me, passionfruit meringue and chocolate fudge cake.
"When I tasted that for the first time in months, it felt like heaven. I was blown away."
LIST OF WINNERS
Manhunt Singapore (Junior) 2015
Winner: Muhammad Fuad ($17,000 worth of prizes)
First runner-up: Sylvester Goh ($1,500 worth of prizes)
Second runner-up: Melvin Lim ($900 worth of prizes)
Manhunt Singapore (Senior) 2015
Winner: Sammy Phua
($17,000 worth of prizes)
First runner-up: Benjamin Teo ($1,500 worth of prizes)
Second runner-up: Ron Kou ($900 worth of prizes)
Most Well Groomed
Junior: Firhan Padzlun
Senior: Sammy Phua
Junior: Johan B. Sabri
Senior: Edmund Yang
Junior: Sylvester Goh
Senior: Chris Ng
Best In Physique
Hot Man In Linen
Johan B. Sabri
Mr Japan IPL
Mr Internet Popularity
Junior: Raphael Chen
Senior: Benjamin Teo
Junior: Shaun Toh
Senior: Benjamin Teo
Most Sporty Award
Ngen Ge Liang
Best In Swimwear
Mr Jennerific (Awarded by Hotel Jen)
This article was first published on Dec 7, 2015.
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