Born on Dec. 19, 1970 in The Bronx, NY, model and reality personality Tyson Beckford rose to prominence as a preeminent face for high-end clothier Ralph Lauren and went on to become the first African-American male supermodel. Beckford moved with his family to Jamaica early in life and lived there until he was seven. Back in upstate New York, he attended top-ranked Pittsford Mendon High School in an affluent suburb of Pittsford, thanks to his participation in a busing program that brought youths from urban areas to suburban schools. In the summer of 1993, he was discovered at random in Washington Square Park in Manhattan by an editor for The Source, a hip-hop magazine that gave Beckford his first modeling gig. Convinced he had found his career path, Beckford landed an agent and began modeling for Ralph Lauren, leading him to appear in print ads, on television and at various fashion events around the world. In 1995, he was named "Man of the Year" by VH1 and one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" by People magazine.
Beckford expanded his modeling horizons, appearing in GQ, Vogue and Essence before making the shift to a film and television career. He made his feature debut with a cameo as himself in the Ben Stiller comedy "Zoolander" (2001), before scoring a more substantial supporting role in the low-budget thriller "Pandora's Box" (2002). On the television side, he served as a correspondent on the syndicated magazine show "Source All Access TV" (2000-01), then landed guest spots on "Half & Half" (UPN, 2002-06) and "My Wife and Kids" (ABC, 2000-05). After making an early exit from "I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here!" (ABC, 2002-03), a short-lived reality competition pitting a group of celebs against each other in an Australian rain forest, Beckford returned to film with noticeable roles in "Biker Boyz" (2003) and "Into the Blue" (2005). In June 2005, Beckford crashed his Dodge Ram into a utility pole in New Jersey, causing the vehicle to be consumed in flames. He was treated for head trauma and cuts, then appeared on "Oprah" to discuss his near-fatal experience. Meanwhile, Beckford shared hosting duties with fashion model Niki Taylor on "Make Me a Supermodel" (Bravo, 2007-09), a reality competition with seven men and seven women living together in a Manhattan loft while trying to win a $100,000 modeling agency contract.