Level Q

Tyson Beckford Is Not Done Making History

The 51-year-old supermodel speaks on his Polo prime, squashing beef with Diddy, and how Beyoncé got him back in his bag

Bonsu Thompson
7 min readFeb 15, 2022


Photo: Courtesy of Ivy Park

Tyson Beckford is the greatest Black male model of our generation — and it’s not even close. Back in the ’90s, the lean, melanated baldie from the Bronx gave fashion houses access to minority cultures around the globe, often the only Black model in casting rooms full of blond, blue-eyed boys. “They would look at me like I was crazy,” remembers Beckford of his fair-skinned peers. “Like, ‘Didn’t you get the memo? Did your agent mess up and send you to the wrong casting?’”

After a year of awkward auditions for lily-white lines like Abercrombie & Fitch, Beckford linked with another icon, Ralph Lauren, in 1993, becoming the Polo poster child during his Jordan year. (“It was like signing an NBA contract right out of school,” says Beckford.) To this day, no Black male model has grossed more coin than the billboard god of the ’90s. His reign on the top was long like marathons. But unfortunately, after a couple decades of dominance — and an emotional falling out with Diddy — Tyson grew tired of the fashion world and retired. That is until Beyoncé came calling.

Today, the 51-year-old still looks as if his soul remains the devil’s property. He is also the new face of Beyoncé’s unisex Ivy Park line, Ivy Heart. Queen Bey has returned that Beckford swagger, and even has the fashion emirates contemplating a comeback. Basically, Ivy Park’s got Tyson feeling like Mike Tyson again — when the chocolate boy wonder’s mere entrance would deflate a casting room. “Everyone there would be like, ‘Aww, man. Beckford is here,’” he recalls. “We ain’t getting it now.”

Tyson Beckford hopped on a video call with LEVEL to chat about his Ivy Park collaboration, braving through a racist fashion industry, the Polo legacy, and why you’ll never see him on a Yeezy runway.

LEVEL: So, how did Ivy Park pull you out of retirement?
Tyson Beckford:
I’m good friends with Melissa Vargas, who is Beyonce’s right hand, and had numerous run-ins with Beyoncé. Melissa called me and was like, “B was wondering if you’d do Ivy Park?” I was like, if the king needs her…



Bonsu Thompson

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.