Tyson Beckford continues to break barriers as the premier Black male model. He was discovered by a talent scout in 1992 and over the last 16 years he has proved to the world that he is king of the catwalk. In early 2008 he chartered new territory as the host of Bravo's "Make Me a Supermodel," a "Top Model"-esque competition show that earned strong ratings in its debut season. Beckford returns for a second season of the show March 4. ESSENCE.com get's the scoop from our favorite male model about the seriousiness of his new show, model mentoring and being a born model.
ESSENCE.COM: What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a supermodel?
TYSON BECKFORD: I would say make sure you find a great photographer to shoot with, that you can connect with, and then from that point on, get your walking shoes on and walk and go see all the agencies.
ESSENCE.COM: Were you made or born supermodel?
BECKFORD: I think I was born (to be a supermodel), honestly. When I was coming up, I didn't have a guy or a mentor to look up to. I just went in there and did it, and they told me what to do, you know. But I started off as an actor. So, if you told me to act like a supermodel, I could do it. So I think it was probably born for me.
ESSENCE.COM: Does "Make Me A Super Model" understate the seriousness of being a top model, and are the top contestants the only successful models from the show?
BECKFORD: I think the agencies are looking to pick people not because they win the show. I mean we've got guys who didn't win the show and they're doing really well. I've had girls from the Australian version of "Making a Supermodel" who are doing well here in New York. And it's not so much about the winner. I think it's about the top five, because you see who has potential, and if the agency is willing to take the person and work with them, I think that's a plus. Sometimes it's good if you don't win because then not too much is expected from you, but there's a potential to take you to that next level.
ESSENCE.com: As both a host and mentor for the male competitors on your new show, describe your mentoring style?
BECKFORD: I would say my style is basically talking from past experiences, because there's nothing that they're doing that I haven't done already. I would build them up and tell them, Don't worry. These girls are nothing. You can beat them. You know, nothing too crazy, I just pump them up. If you give someone great confidence, they'll do really well. It just comes from the confidence factor, and that's where I went with it.
ESSENCE.COM: How important is swagger in a competition like this?
BECKFORD: It's very important. It separates you from the average guy because the average guy doesn't have swagger. If you've got swagger, you can pretty much go into anything, from a board meeting to a football tryout to an audition. It separates you from everyone else. It's basically having personality with everything you do; the way you walk, the way you carry yourself. That's swagger. And that's what I was trying to teach these kids to have. You've got to separate yourself from the other guy.
Catch season 2 of "Make Me a Supermodel" March 4 at 10 P.M. ET/PT.