Overweight redhead drops out of beauty contest, citing abuse

One redheaded British model they won't laugh at... Lily Cole attends the launch of " title="Lily cole model uk redhead 7 6 2011" itemProp="contentUrl" />

One redheaded British model they won't laugh at... Lily Cole attends the launch of "Gatwick Runway Models," the search for Britain's next supermodels in partnership with Storm Model Management in London, England.

An overweight, ginger-haired front-runner in a modeling contest was forced to quit the competition after he was threatened and abused, according to reports.

Roland Bunce, from Belfast polled 66,000 votes to beat 5000 competitors to be the new face of clothing chain Next.

The 24-year-old IT worker became a global internet hit after his application for the contest went viral. Bunce stood to win around $3000, a photo shoot and an introduction to top modelling agency Storm, which represents supermodel Kate Moss.

Placed in the top 250 of hottest models, Bunce gained a legion of fans on Facebook and Twitter but found life as a poster boy for the unconventionally beautiful tough going.

He would have gone before a judging panel in the final round along with 249 other winners later this month, but a post put on his Facebook page yesterday read: "Just to let you all know I am quitting the Next Model contest."

"It was a big honor to win and it's been fun but the amount of abuse I've been getting since Thursday is out of control and I've now just been threatened. "Thanks to everyone who has supported me but I am now bowing out before this gets any worse."

The decision to retire disappointed many of his supporters, who had formed the Facebook group Roland Bunce to win Next Model 2011.

Jorja McKenzie said on the page, "It's a sad day when discrimination is around us 24/7 and the word 'model' is used just for the skinny and rich," she said.

"I'm sad you pulled out but you had to before people hunt you down like a pack of wolves to voice their unneeded opinion on you or worse. Proud of you Roland."