Photograph by Jason Kibbler/Bravo Photo
Got a minute? Tyson Beckford opens up about being the first male supermodel, the lack of "chocolate skin" on the runway, and homophobia on the second season of Make Me a Supermodel (Wednesdays at 10 P.M. on Bravo starting March 4).
Q: Would you have gone on Make Me a Supermodel when you were starting out?
A: Probably not. At the time, it was unheard of, doing something like this. You had to go the original route. But I did it a little bit edgier, where I came in with a wife-beater and baggy jeans, you know, hip-hop oriented.
Q: Next week's premiere episode sets up the potential for Real World-style conflict, don't you think?
A: Well, ya know what? I had nothing to do with the conflict. I always tell the kids, "Please, don't play to the cameras. Be yourself—but don't fight with each other. Then you guys look stupid."
Q: Well, if you tell someone not to pay attention to the camera, how can they not?
A: When I am on set, I know the cameras are there but I block them out. I focus all my attention on the models. Some of them think, Oh, I got some modeling experience. I'm not going to listen to you. I'm like, "Okay, I am a supermodel. You're trying to be one."
Q: Homophobia seems to play an integral role this season. As the host, how did you handle that?
A: I said, "Look man, you got to put this stuff aside. You're stepping into a business of fashion." And if a dude cannot work with another man or any of that, then you're in the wrong business.
Q: You're considered not only the first black male supermodel, but also the first male supermodel, period.
A: That's a big shoe to be trying to fill.
Q: You take that role seriously, though. Didn't you once forgo a show during Milan fashion week because you would have been the only black model?
A: Oh yeah, I turned it down. Everyone thought I was crazy. But we have to respect what we are doing. And it's just incredible that taking a stand like that has changed fashion in a sense.
Q: How so?
A: Milan is a lot more savvy to the chocolate skin. These new girls are coming in—and these new guys. And they're booking a lot of guys straight from Africa. Vanessa Rothschild