Exclusive: Tyson Beckford on It's The Ship 2017, stripteasing and Sasha Fierce

'The greatest male model of all time' talks diversity in fashion, being a Chippendale, and what he does with gifts from fans

By Lydia Chan | Published: 27 Nov 2017

ELLE talks to Tyson
Photo: tysoncbeckford/Instagram

Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford – the supermodels of the 90s need no introductions. But among the many women that ruled the runway, one man stood out – it's Tyson Beckford.

Often described as 'the most successful male supermodel of all time', mixed-heritage American model Tyson is best known for being the face of Polo Ralph Lauren. Since nabbing that massive campaign in 1993, Tyson went on to walk in fashion shows around the world and has dabbled in both television and film.

These days, however, Tyson's a little more... undressed. He's the guest star of male striptease troupe, the Chippendales – when he performed with the troupe two years ago, ticket sales for his show broke records!

So when party cruise, It's The Ship announced that Tyson will not only be on board to perform with the Chippendales but will act as the honorary captain of the 4-day voyage, we knew we had to speak to the legend.

How have you found your time as captain of It's The Ship?
I've actually been so busy running around that I've not had too much time. Mostly, I've been taking a lot of pictures [with shipgoers] and trying to make it to different appointments, like rehearsals for the gala dinner, my Chippendales shows and carrying out my captain duties. It does get kind of hard sometimes cause every time you are trying to get somewhere, people will stop you, and then the elevators are also kind of a pain (laughs).

In the midst of all the crazy, what's been your favourite moment?
It's definitely been interacting with everyone. Asia is such a huge market for me and it's somewhere I haven't been back to in a while, so coming back has really reminded me why I love this place so much.


When they wanna wear the Captain’s hat 👨🏾✈️#tysonbeckford #teamtyson #itstheship2017 #singapore #thailand #phuket

A post shared by Tyson C.Beckford (@tysoncbeckford) on

Can It's The Ship expect to see you again?
Oh yeah, definitely! They've been talking to me about coming back next year, so we will try to figure it out. Honestly, it was so good that [It's The Ship] came up and my schedule was clear. Otherwise, I was going to the Victoria's Secret show in Shanghai but I think if you've gone to one show, you've been to them all.

In an interview with Esquire a few years back, you mentioned the lack of diversity in fashion. How do you feel about the industry now?
It's getting better with the diversity, I'm seeing a lot more women of colour working but it's just that the progress is taking long. The world is not one set of people or one race anymore. We have multiracial people like myself – I'm part Asian, part Latino, and I've got African and Jamaican roots – so, we're starting to see more and more, so we've just got to put our foot on the gas and keep pushing.

It's good to see [people of colour] on the covers of ELLE and all these other magazines, and more diversity popping especially in a lot of the advertisements because that's what's really important. You're selling to such diverse people and you don't want to exclude anyone.


@tysoncbeckford wears The #Polo Shirt, 1995. 📷 @bruce_weber #FBF

A post shared by Polo Ralph Lauren (@poloralphlauren) on

You've been dubbed the 'greatest male model of all time' and have decades of experience under your belt. What advice would you give to aspiring models on how to succeed in this business?
I would say, really think about what you want and think about the sacrifices that you will have to make. Then, you've just got to work hard.

In my case and how I got to where I am, I honestly don't know if it's ever going to happen again. For me, it was like the lottery – I came in at the right time when the business was going in a new direction and it was always these females supermodels, and then it was just me. There was Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and all these big greats.


Two icons in #polodenim: @iamnaomicampbell and @tysoncbeckford, shot by @bruce_weber, 1997

A post shared by Polo Ralph Lauren (@poloralphlauren) on

I think nowadays, they just loosely use the term 'supermodel'. They just give it to somebody and it's really not the same. That's why you haven't seen another Tyson or Kate – the era is gone. Now they try to make it that way but they do it so fast without the models actually working for it and getting their due credit.

I saw you performing with the Chippendales and you were amazing! What's your prep before getting onstage? Do you have an alter ego like Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce?
Oh yeah! Sometimes I sit in front of the mirror with my first outfit on and me and the guys will play music and talk about our day, all while we're working out and oiling ourselves up. We think about our routine, sometimes you will see some guys practising it, so we really have a sort of Sasha Fierce mindset going in.

Does your alter ego have a name?
He has many names! (Laughs) The one on this trip has been called The Tyger. People who know will be like, "Where is the Tyger?" and "The Tyger is coming out!", so we've been doing a lot of that. Franky Fashion was always a favourite back in my heyday cause that's when I will turn it on before walking a fashion show.


When they pay you to do this! #chipanddale #chippendales #teamtyson #tysonbeckford

A post shared by Tyson C.Beckford (@tysoncbeckford) on

What is the wildest thing an audience member has done?
I've had women throw me their underwear – some even take it off right there and give it to us!

And you just take it?
Well, yeah. Back in Vegas, I have this little box, this collection of gifts from different fans. (Laughs)

What has been your craziest fan encounter?
I had a whole mob of Japanese girls approach me to take pictures and then they started rubbing my hair and lifting my shirt up. (Laughs) But here onboard It's The Ship, everyone has been so cordial. You'd expect a bunch of drunk people but it hasn't been like that at all, just people being courteous and nice to each other, no conflicts, no arguments or fights. It's just amazing, a lot of people having a good time and enjoying the party – I wish the real world was like this.

You've previously been to Malaysia but when will you be back next?
We've already planned to come back sometime in January and also thinking about Phuket and Bali. So we will be running around Asia a little bit and maybe Australia.

Lydia Chan meets Tyson Beckford on It's The Ship (Photo: ELLE Malaysia)

Related: It's The Ship 2017 diary: Day 1
Related: It's The Ship 2017 diary: Day 2
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Related: It's The Ship 2017 diary: Day 4


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