Geek temple of beauty
21 June 2001

Geek or unique? The finalists
have already been tested on
wits and geek technology

Chloe Veltman reports on the once-shy species that is coming out to bask in the limelight

Move over Kate Moss and make way for the geeks. Eight of the world's most gorgeous geeks will compete today for the spurious award of Sexiest Geek Alive at the San Jose Convention Centre in the heart of Silicon Valley.

More than 10,000 technology professionals have enlisted themselves for the title, which is coveted only if you have an over-developed fondness of computers. "They're all beautiful eccentrics," says Steven Phenix, the event's founder and organiser.

Eccentric might be an understatement. Ellen Spertus, a 32-year-old computer science professor from Oakland, California, is planning to wear a special dress she ordered from Australia, which is made from computer circuit boards. She has the car numberplate V EQ IR after Ohm's Law of Electricity (V = IR).

One of the finalists at last year's competition said: "I'm used to getting compliments for my intellectual accomplishments. Now I want to be noticed for my body."

Despite being touted as a "pageant for geeks," the emphasis of the event is definitely on brains. Phenix says: "This is a co-ed brains pageant, not a beauty pageant - there will definitely not be a swimsuit competition."

In fact, most of this year's finalists are only too happy to admit their physical inadequacies. "As a kid, I was pasty and skinny and unappealing, except to my geek friends," says finalist David Nett, 27, a web producer from Los Angeles.

The finalists have jumped through various hoops to make it to San Jose. First, contestants from around the world were asked to test their intellect about technology and geek culture by answering 40 questions located on the website. Based on points awarded for correct answers and a follow-up interview, successful candidates were chosen to compete either online or at a regional event to get through to the final. Prizes include a Gateway computer system and a Caribbean cruise.

"The competition is all about embracing the geek within," says Phenix, and this year's contestants have dutifully taken nerd-dom to its very limits. Take Chad Briggs, for example, the 25-year-old owner of Last Dragon Post, a post-production company, from Dallas, Texas. When he was young, he whined until his parents bought him an Apple computer, then he set about memorising the Apple manuals.

Then there is Computer Source Magazine editor-in-chief L Ryan Douthit, 28, from Kirkland. As a student, he spent $400 to get his hands on the necessary software to run "Corel Draw 3.0 in Win/oS2 session on the OS/2 desktop". "The decision was easy," he adds. "I didn't really have to eat."

Although the idolisation of geeks has waned since technology stocks plummeted, the Sexiest Geek Alive is meant to inject a little humour into these serious times. Besides, the true geeks have been perhaps the least affected by the industry turmoil. Says Phenix: "When the layoffs come, the pink slips always go to the pretty, well-dressed people in marketing."

Copyright 2001 The Telgeraph Group Ltd