SUPERMODEL, ACTOR and television personality Tyson Craig Beckford was born in Rochester, New York on December 19, 1970. His parents are of different ethnic backgrounds. His father, Lloyd Beckford, is a Jamaican of Panamanian nationality, and his mother, Hillary Dixon Hall, is a Chinese Jamaican. He shares his part-Asian ethnicity with fellow black supermodel Naomi Campbell, whose grandmother was also Chinese.
TYSON'S CHINESE HISTORY
The Chinese first came to Jamaica in 1854 to work on its plantations as indentured servants. Relationships soon flourished between the migrants and the local Jamaican women, and by the mid-1940s there were over 5,500 people of Afro-Chinese ethnicity living on the island.
The biography of Tyson's rise to supermodel stardom is as compelling as his multi-ethnic heritage. Soon after he was born his mother took the family back to Jamaica, where they lived for seven years before returning to New York, finally settling in Harlem. During his school years Tyson was teased about his looks, but this did not stop his career as a model taking off in 1992, after he was spotted in New York's Washington Square Park by Jeff Jones, an editor at hip-hop magazine The Source.
Shortly afterwards he began working with top photographers Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber. It was Weber who introduced the young model to Ralph Lauren, who signed him in 1994 to an exclusive contract as the face of the Polo Sport range that made his name worldwide as the first black male supermodel.
But it was tough, as being the first black male fashion model to feature for the designer came with challenges. “I remember walking into Ralph Lauren for the first time, and seeing only white guys there;” he said in Tyson Beckford Up Close. “I was the only black guy in the whole casting. And they'd give me that look, like what are you doing here.”
Undeterred, Beckford went on to major success with Polo Ralph Lauren, modelling for the brand for five years, while simultaneously featuring on the covers of all the major fashion magazines. In 1995 his cross-racial aesthetic of Chinese eyes, high cheekbones, full lips and brown skin catapulted him into People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People In The World. More recently he has become a television celebrity, branching out as a judge in reality model shows such as Make Me A Supermodel, and Britain And Ireland's Next Top Model.