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Connellsville man runner-up in modeling competition

| Friday, Oct. 21, 2011

Ambition.

Troy Michael Smith has it in abundance. His drive will lead him to an international stage early next year.

The 24-year-old Connellsville resident has already placed in three national contests focusing on fitness and talent. His latest triumph, runner-up in Manhunt USA could lead to a modeling contract.

Manhunt USA and its next step, Mr. Manhunt International, comprise the largest modeling competitions in the world.

Mr. USA and Miss USA automatically will compete in the international competition in Peru, Jan. 4 through Jan. 10, for the titles Mr. and Miss Sea.

Although he did not get the Mr. USA title, Smith so impressed producers they recently invited him to represent the U.S. territory of Guam in the international competition.

Smith talked about his Manhunt USA experience and, given his natural drive, the changes he is making in his body and mind for the Peru contest.

Rafa Delfin, CEO of the Mister USA contest named Smith Mr. Pennsylvania after the 2011 Mister USA contest was canceled.

Smith attended the Manhunt USA competition in Miami from Sept. 26 through Oct. 2

"It was challenging," Smith said. "There were 18 judges. Nine for the preliminary round who named the top 15, and then a new panel of nine for the final round." He competed against men from around the nation.

Women competed alongside the men, for the title of Miss International USA.

Smith made the top 15 and headed to the interview and swimsuit round.

He didn't worry about the interview. "I can think on my feet," he said. One of his questions hit home: "If you win, what do you represent?"

He answered, "Ambition. I have a lot of ambition to reach my goals."

Interviews were private, but the swimwear competition was open to the public. All the men wore the same boxer-style trunks; the only difference was color: either aqua or orange. A producer gave Smith aqua.

"I didn't like them," Smith said, "but they wanted to concentrate on our physique, on our fitness." Each male contestant escorted a female contestant, also in show-selected swimwear, down the catwalk.

For the finale, the top contestants faced nine new judges, with their previous scores erased. "We had to do it all over, with swimwear and formal wear. The top four, had all that scoring erased, too and the final question determined the winner," Smith said.

Smith was the final one selected for the final four. Six women were chosen. Producers told the competitors that anyone who made it this far, had a future in the industry.

Celebrity judges decided the fate of the potential models. "One was from the Wilhelmina Agency, the most famous modeling agency in the world. We didn't recognize his name, but the agency is the top," Smith said.

Smith's question was: "What is the most important experience of this competition so far?" He said contestants only had 45 seconds to answer and could not hesitate. "Friendships," he answered. "None of us knew one another before, and now that's the most overall rewarding experience."

A professional model did not win. Troy waited as second runner-up was named. "I thought they would name me second runner-up. It's been my curse, I haven't placed higher than that, in Mr. Gay USA in 2009 and Mr. Unlimited this past August."

Smith broke the curse, but he did not reach is overreaching goal. "I was first runner-up, and that was fine. I still get to travel, me, Troy Michael of Pennsylvania. I felt good for Yunior, the winner, even though I wanted to beat him. He'll travel internationally for shoots and I'll travel throughout the country, all expenses paid. I'll have opportunities from this. I will meet representatives from agencies. Working for Wilhelmina is my dream."

Smith, already in good shape, worked with two trainers seven days a week, for four or more hours a day for six months to drop from 183 to 162.5 pounds on the day of the competition. "I'm six-three and with male models, it's all about the height. The diet was terrible, but I'm addicted to the gym now. I still go seven days a week. Tennis remains my favorite sport."

Smith has changed his diet and workout to build lean muscle for the international competition.

"I will weigh between 175 and 180 with increased weight lifting. Before, I was trying to get thinner and used lower weights with high repetitions. Now, I'm using higher weights and fewer repetitions. I'm also doing cardio only two times a week. My appearance is going to drastically change, my trainer promised me," Smith said. "Stephen Lotman is my personal trainer. He's like a big brother to me. I would not be where I am now if it wasn't for him pushing me to the limit regarding my modeling goals."

In addition to rebuilding his body, Smith is adding to his knowledge.

He studied French at Connellsville Area High School, where he graduated in 2005 and at St. Vincent College, where he graduated in 2009 with a degree in political science with an English minor.

"They speak Spanish in Peru and I have to learn it. Dr. Doreen Blandino, head of the language department at St. Vincent College teaches French and Spanish. She gave me some resources and tips on how to learn Spanish the quickest."

He doesn't anticipate a difference in the international competition format. "I'll do well with the question part. I'm looking forward to seeing the men and women from all over the world. Since I don't look like a typical person from Guam, I'll stand out. I think I'll be ready by that time, for the interview and with my fitness level. I didn't really win in the USA. I think I'll do better."

Smith's question in the preliminary round of Manhunt USA fit his personality perfectly: "If you win, what would you represent?" His reply: "Ambition. I have a lot of ambition to reach my goals."

Preparing for Manhunt International also fits with Smith's personality. "I'm trying to learn as much Spanish as possible. I'm stepping outside my comfort zone, becoming more universal. You never find out how far you can go if you don't risk going too far."

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