Male models are plentiful, and one need look no further than the cavalcade of magazines, fashion focused or otherwise. Many of them are African-American, but there is only one Black male supermodel and his name is Tyson Beckford.
In fact, he is one of very few male models — period! — that many people know by name, unlike their female counterparts.
The face and sculpted body of Beckford are familiar to untold millions. He is perhaps best known for the modeling he has done for Ralph Lauren, the American fashion designer who is among the industry’s giants, soaring to superstardom with his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand.
Lauren knew right away that Tyson Beckford was exactly right for his clothes and ads.
A side benefit of Beckford’s success is that he helped pave the road for darker skinned Black men, and not just in the fashion industry.
“When I saw Tyson Beckford hailed as this beautiful Black man by all people, that caused a shift in my being,” recalled famed dark-hued actor Taye Diggs. “And I remember looking up and walking the streets feeling more proud.”
Tyson Collin Henderson was born Dec. 19, 1970 in the Bronx, New York. Interestingly, his mother is of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese Jamaican descent, and his father’s heritage is Panamanian and Afro-Jamaican. Although born in the Bronx, he grew up in Rochester, New York.
In high school, Tyson ran track and played football. Modeling came later, in 1992 to be exact when he was spotted by a talent scout which resulted in Beckford being used The Source, a magazine geared toward the hip-hop community.
That was a good and fortuitous start, but the modeling newcomer got his career-changing big break when he was chosen by Ralph Lauren to be the front model for his company’s Polo sportswear line. Suddenly, Beckford’s face was seemingly everywhere.
People magazine, in 1995, named Beckford one of “The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.”
Beckford has been seen in a number of films, appeared on an arrray of televison programs including “My Wife and Kids” (starring Damon Wayans and Tisha Campbell), and also made appearances in many music videos by artists such as Toni Braxton, SWV, Ludacris, Britney Spears and 50 Cent.
Recent activities include co-hosting “Make Me a Supermodel” which airs on the Bravo channel. On the show Beckford mentors the modeling contestants. He had the same function in the Australian version of the show.
Although he is now 41 years old, and a model’s time is limited, Tyson Beckford shows no signs of slowing down. One way or another, he will continue to be a part of the industry that has been so good to him. — SVH
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