Arshad Khan, a tea seller in Islamabad, Pakistan became an Internet sensation after his photo was posted on social media.
With #ChaiWala — or tea seller trending on Twitter, many said they found his “piercing eyes” irresistible.
One online shopping site was quick to sign Khan to a modelling contract.
“I came to know this morning that I am very good looking. All these people are coming and taking pictures and videos of me,” Khan told Reuters.
Khan has reportedly worked at the Sunday market for years, selling tea, fruits and vegetables. And he told the news agency he found the overnight fame to be a surprise.
“Today I was very happy, but I did not know how this happened, or who took the picture. So I got quite worried because I could not make out what was happening. It was all very baffling.”
Khan is an ethnic Pashtun, a heritage shared by some of Bollywood’s biggest stars. He says he would consider acting if he could find what he called, “clean, honourable work.”
Marketing professor Detlev Zwick at York University says this kind of social media phenomenon — where someone becomes famous overnight — makes it easy for business to find talent.
“Finding the one that becomes a valuable commodity for all those business looking for that particular talent becomes easy with the Internet,” Zwick told Global News.
While there has been some talk on social media that Khan has been objectified, Zwick says he is not convinced. “Exploitation is coming from the companies coming in without doing any of the work of finding and developing the talent,” Zwick said.
Islamabad-based clothing retail site Fitin.pk already contracted Khan for his first modelling shoot. He is now on the site’s home page modelling T-shirts.
“Chai wala is no more chai wala, now he is fashion wala,” the site said in a message accompanying his photos.
Khan hopes to use the money from his new-found fame to help his family.
“I need money to help my family. I also want to do charity work across Pakistan,” told the Associated Press.
The teen has no phone and doesn’t know how to read and write, but he has a dream: He wants to educate others.
“I am not an educated person and cannot claim that I will become a doctor or a judge,” he said.
“All I want to say is that I will help those children who are deprived of education. If I get enough money, I will set up schools for children,” he told the Associated Press, sitting at the same stall he had worked at for months.
— With files from the Associated Press