Cleo Most Eligible Bachelors 2016 finalist was once a pudgy fitness trainer
TNP speaks to three finalists in the Cleo Most Eligible Bachelors 2016 contest ahead of the finals tomorrow
As a Manhunt Singapore 2015 Top 20 finalist three months ago, Mr Imran Nedunchelian had to parade in a pair of swimming trunks in front of an audience.
Naturally, the 26-year-old has no reservations going up against 29other men in the Cleo Most Eligible Bachelors 2016 contest.
The competition, which takes place tomorrow at Zouk, will also see contestants such as ONE FM 91.3 producer-DJ Shaun Tupaz and UFM 100.3 DJ Brian Low.
It is hard to believe that Mr Imran, who considers himself painfully shy, once had self-esteem and body confidence issues.
At his heaviest in January last year, he weighed 108kg. Since last December, he has maintained his weight at 84kg.
In 2014, he worked as a chef at the Marina Bay Sands hotel's kitchen for a year while studying at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy. He said his passion for food was a contributing factor to his weight gain.
"I frequented fancy cafes and restaurants and kept eating, not paying attention to my diet," said Mr Imran, who put his studies on hold last year and is now a fitness professional at E's Fitness.
He added that his weight problem started back in 2012 when he gained 35kg after serving his national service.
His weight made him self-conscious and ashamed at swimming pools. He was also uncomfortable wearing shorts and sleeveless tops and would buy shirts one size larger.
His insecurities even affected his love life.
Mr Imran, who has had three girlfriends, said he held himself back from making it official with a woman he was seeing seven years ago, which led to the relationship fizzling out.
"We (went out) for a year and all was going well, but I didn't take things to the next level (of asking her to be my girlfriend) because I was scared she would reject me. I thought I wasn't good-looking enough."
It took one comment to change everything.
"Someone asked me, 'You're a trainer but how come you don't look like one?' That hit me hard. It was a major ego bruise."
So he vowed to get in shape. When he was approached to join Manhunt last June, he used it as motivation to train hard and eat healthily.
To prepare for the Cleo Most Eligible Bachelors contest, Mr Imran has stepped up his fitness regimen. He trains twice daily and the routine consists of cardio and weight-training for 45 minutes each.
"When I see how the other guys are better sculpted, I do feel a bit pressured. But I just want to enjoy myself, everything else is a bonus," said Mr Imran.
He has attracted his fair share of female attention since joining both competitions.
Before Manhunt, he had about 700 Facebook friends. Now, he has nearly 3,100.
Mr Imran, who has been seeing a 28-year-old psychologist for close to a year, admitted that she does feel insecure.
"But I think communication is important and what matters is you talk about it to reassure her," he said, adding that he adores women who are not afraid to be themselves around him.
He admitted he receives sleazy Facebook messages from women, but the most meaningful ones are words of support and encouragement from strangers.
"When people tell me I have inspired them to be healthier, I find it extremely rewarding. It makes me very happy," he said.
THEN AND NOW: (Above) Mr Imran Nedunchelian at his heaviest in January last year at 108kg. He now weighs 84kg.
He wants to win it 'for the underdogs'
He has his ONE FM 91.3 team to thank, in part, for pushing him towards his first attempt at this year's Cleo Most Eligible Bachelors competition.
Radio producer-presenter Shaun Tupaz, who is part of ONE FM's #1 Breakfast Show crew, fought long-time confidence issues with the encouragement of team-mates Glenn Ong, the Flying Dutchman, Elliott Danker and Andre Hoeden.
The 28-year-old, whose mother is Chinese and father Filipino-Portuguese, told The New Paper: "I've never felt validated until I met these guys when the show rebranded last July. That was the turning point.
"I knew they had my back. They were the first people who said they would vote for me and lend support by showing up at the event. I've never felt that kind of encouragement and love before so it matters so much to me."
It was during this time that Tupaz started his twice-a-day fitness plan, losing 15kg. At 1.74m, he now weighs 74kg.
His self-doubt and lack of self-esteem stemmed from his academic struggles as a child.
After attaining a score of 95 for his PSLE, he was part of the Normal (Technical) stream at Coral Secondary School where he did his N levels.
He wanted to pursue his O levels as a private candidate but was told by friends and family that he would "never make it".
It was only when he was an info-communications technology student at ITE MacPherson that he tried to find his footing in the media industry, and more importantly, himself.
For Tupaz, pitting himself against other men for the Cleo Most Eligible Bachelor title is a step forward in challenging himself to try something new.
Even so, he is still battling his demons.
"The first thing I thought was, 'Am I even good-looking enough?' I remember when I went for a pre-competition photo shoot, I saw all these other beefcakes whose jawlines were more structured than my life. The stylist had them with their shirts off or shirts pulled down. When it came to my turn, I wore a T-shirt and jacket they gave me.
"So okay lah, I'm not good looking enough. To make it, I have to either use my personality... or bribe someone," he joked.
Despite his seemingly outgoing character, he almost always clams up around women.
He has had three serious girlfriends, but admits he is scared to make a move on women.
"All my life, I've been afraid of striking up a conversation and I'm always sceptical and nervous. It stems from my own self-doubt," said Tupaz, who added he is single.
"This is something new for me. I'm in it to win it and I want to try to win this for the underdogs," he said.
The first thing I thought was, 'Am I even good-looking enough?' I remember when I went for a pre-competition photo shoot, I saw all these other beefcakes whose jawlines were more structured than my life.
- ONE FM 91.3's Shaun Tupaz
His sister voted for another guy
UFM 100.3 DJ Brian Low feels he does not stand a chance against fellow radio personality Shaun Tupaz for the top spot in the Cleo Most Eligible Bachelors competition.
This is even though the 27-year-old has had some experience in such contests. When he was a freshman at Nanyang Technological University seven years ago, he came in second out of five guys in a hall pageant.
Low told The New Paper: "Shaun is a lot more natural and entertaining on stage, so he grabs people's attention easily. His comical side will appeal to a lot of women in the audience.
"But of course, I hope I stand a chance as well and that people are supporting me."
He is taking part for the exposure and has not done any special preparation for the competition.
Despite that, Low, who is 1.68m tall and weighs 59kg, may have already garnered a following.
Recently, he said he received a bouquet of roses at work from an anonymous sender. The wilting flowers still sit on his table in the office.
"My colleagues were teasing me for a couple of days. I have to admit, it is unusual for a guy to receive flowers," said Low, who is currently single. His last relationship ended four years ago.
Online public voting started in the days leading up to the Cleo Most Eligible Bachelors finals, but he missed out on his younger sister's support. She voted for another bachelor not knowing that Low was in the running.
"I found that so funny. She's not free on the day of the finals but the consolation is that at least she's not there to support the other guy too," said Low, laughing.