Crowds at Times Square jostled for a glimpse of Khagendra Thapa Magar who at 17 is the size of a baby and has stopped growing.
The Nepalese teen was making his first visit to New York as part of a publicity trip organized by the freak-show museum Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Wearing a white shirt and doll-sized pin-striped gray jacket, Magar smiled shily, blinking at rows of cameras and the vast neon billboards lining Times Square.
Ripley’s declares Magar — at 22 inches (56 centimeters) tall and 11 pounds (five kilograms) — the world’s smallest person.
The Guinness Book of Records this Monday named Colombia’s Nino Hernandez to the title, saying Magar is not yet adult.
But next month the Nepali turns 18 and, at two inches (5.08 centimeters) under his rival, will easily grab the undisputed top title of tininess.
Ripley’s, a museum chain celebrating oddities such as a five-legged cow, a bearded lady and two-headed sheep, said Magar suffers primordial dwarfism.
The condition typically reduces life expectancy to as little as the 20s.
But his translator, Min Bahadur Rana, said Magar was in many ways a normal teenager.
“He’s very happy. He laughs a lot. He wants a girlfriend — a big one, not a small one,” Rana said. “He wants to be a doctor. After school, he wants to study.”
Edward Meyer, vice president for exhibits at Ripley’s, said that during an evening out on the town Monday, Magar developed a particular interest in New York blondes. “He’s fascinated with blondes because there are virtually no blonde women in Nepal.”
After posing in Ripley’s alongside a life-sized figure of the tallest man in history — the 8-foot-11-inch American Robert Wadlow — Magar stopped at Times Square and was to have lunch at a famous deli and go up the Empire State Building.
Magar smiled at the gawking crowds and showed off a dance move for a bank of news cameras. He was clearly delighted at the chance to sit with a New York policeman, admiring the officer’s shiny NYPD badge.
But sometimes he looked overwhelmed and some passersby worried that Magar’s visit resembled a 19th century traveling freak show.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Brazilian tourist Loiana Cortez, 22, after catching sight of the tiny celebrity. “I don’t know if he likes to be famous. There’s a lot of pressure around him.”
“I just feel sorry for him,” British tourist Karen Embery, 48, said. “He looks scared.”
But Meyer, who scours the world for bizarre attractions, denied that Magar was being exploited.
“I don’t use the word freak,” he said. “He can make a living. Quote-unquote ‘freaks’ have the right to make a living and if the only thing they can do is have pictures taken of them, then that’s what it is.”
After his Big Apple tour, Magar, his father and interpreter fly to London where they will continue to promote Ripley’s, which has paid for the trip – Geo.tv