TYSON UN­COV­ERED

Tyson Beck­ford on su­per­model stay­ing power, his post-fash­ion projects, and why he just can’t get enough Chippendales.

Vegas Magazine - - Contents - by AN­DREA BEN­NETT pho­tog­ra­phy by DENISE TR­US­CELLO

Tyson Beck­ford on su­per­model stay­ing power, his post-fash­ion projects, and why he just can’t get enough Chippendales!

Tyson Beck­ford is a healthy, healthy man—about as vir­tu­ous an eater as those who have seen him in var­i­ous states of un­dress in his week­end per­for­mances at Chippendales might imag­ine. But even su­per­mod­els take a cheat day, and dur­ing the shoot for our cover story, he told us his kryp­tonite is Fat­burger. (His “cheat” is a dou­ble turkey burger with let­tuce, onion, tomato, and ketchup.) But dis­ci­pline isn’t new for Beck­ford. Even af­ter be­com­ing the ex­clu­sive face of Ralph Lau­ren’s Polo Sport la­bel in 1994, he says, “There would be big bill­boards of me, but I was still go­ing to act­ing classes and cast­ings, do­ing jobs, read­ing movie scripts, learn­ing my lines. It didn’t mat­ter what was up there, be­cause it was al­ready up there. I’m al­ways think­ing about the fu­ture. What’s next?” What was next, of course, were over two decades as the most suc­cess­ful male su­per­model of all time, and roles and ap­pear­ances in dozens of films, tele­vi­sion shows, and mu­sic videos. But the buzz on Beck­ford now is his third, sizzling celebrity host run with Chippendales—a role that both he and his clam­or­ing fans love so much, it’s been ex­tended through July 9th (with talks to add per­for­mances through the end of the year). Re­cently, we took Tyson to Fat­burger on the Strip and, un­der the watch­ful gaze of cir­cling fans, talked about how to stay rel­e­vant for decades, and why there’s no place he’d rather be on the week­ends than with his Chippendales boys at the Rio.

If this is your cheat day, what’s a reg­u­lar day like?

I have a per­sonal fit­ness chef that sends my meals to me weighed and in por­tions. They’re fish, grilled chicken and broc­coli, and salmon of course. I used to eat red meat, but I got to a point where I said no more. It made me feel a lot lighter, a lot health­ier. My mother got me on an or­ganic diet when I was 25. A lot of peo­ple didn’t know what or­ganic was at that time, and they didn’t have Whole Foods. You went to the mar­ket on a Satur­day or Sun­day or you bought from a lo­cal store that got it from some­one’s back­yard.

So train­ing for Chippendales doesn’t mean that you have to to­tally read­just your life­style…

For me, no. From be­ing a model, I al­ways had that train­ing to get into su­per-lean shape two weeks out. I’d be run­ning like 5 per­cent body fat, and then if I knew I’d have to shoot some­thing, I’d drop to 3 per­cent. I’d get calls from my man­ager ask­ing what I wanted to eat on set, and I ba­si­cally changed the whole crew to eat­ing well. Where they’d never had kale be­fore, they’d try it. Since I kept them work­ing, they’d roll with it.

I’ve heard you say that you’re bring­ing in more di­verse crowds to Chippendales.

Yeah, I’ve heard it from the guys. It’s all dif­fer­ent age groups and na­tion­al­i­ties. All th­ese black ladies came in yes­ter­day from the

South, and they said, “We saw you on The View [he ap­peared April 12], and we just had to come see you.” When you get stuff like that, you kind of melt. It’s a re­ally blessed thing to go out on a show like that and have your friends call you up and peo­ple on the street say, “Oh, I just saw you on The View, I just saw you on Dr. Oz.”

What do you think it takes to stay rel­e­vant for so many years?

I’m not do­ing any­thing spe­cial—i’m just be­ing me! I look at kids on so­cial me­dia, and I say, “What’s your tal­ent? Can you act? Can you sing?” We grew up watch­ing peo­ple like Michael Jack­son and Prince. They had so much tal­ent and they changed the world mu­si­cally and gave back to char­i­ties and in dis­as­ters. What have th­ese peo­ple done? What is their con­tri­bu­tion? Why is it you have more fol­low­ers than a No­bel Peace Prize win­ner?

Do you watch re­al­ity TV?

I’ll watch it and I just laugh. And then I go back to the re­al­ity of what life re­ally is. My re­al­ity TV is watch­ing MSNBC and CNN. I want to know what Kim Jong- un’s do­ing.

This is your third run as the celebrity host of Chippendales. How did it come about?

They have this se­cret list. And you prob­a­bly won’t ever get to see this list, but that’s their wish list. I re­mem­ber as a kid in New York walk­ing by their the­ater and think­ing, Oh, they’re in great shape. Some­day I’d like to look like that— never think­ing that one day I would be one of those guys. Peo­ple say, “You’re a su­per­model, how come you’re do­ing that?” And I say it’s be­cause I got bored of do­ing the su­per­model thing. I like do­ing dif­fer­ent things. I don’t want to be a stereo­type. I say to my­self each night when I get off­stage, “They’re ac­tu­ally pay­ing me to have fun?” You know, th­ese ladies come in to the flirt lounge and they say, “You look like you’re hav­ing so much fun up there.” You can’t fake that. I’m sur­rounded by th­ese guys who eat and sleep this. You have to re­spect it, be­cause they take it so se­ri­ously. Mus­cle memory puts them in the same place ev­ery time to per­fect ev­ery move, ev­ery turn, ev­ery flip, and ev­ery ges­ture. I watch James Davis, John House, and John Cook, and they’re pre­cise and con­sis­tent ev­ery night. They make it look so ef­fort­less, but they put in so much work to be so con­sis­tent.

Are you hav­ing more fun than they are?

I think so! I re­ally think so! I’m laugh­ing, I’m gig­gling. This is my third time around, and I think it’s more fun than the first time.

You broke box of­fice records in your first stints with Chippendales—is that why you came back?

I don’t look at the num­bers. I know it’s good for

“I RE­MEM­BER AS A KID IN NEW YORK WALK­ING BY THE [CHIPPENDALES] THE­ATER AND THINK­ING, OH, THEY’RE IN GREAT SHAPE. SOME­DAY I’D LIKE TO LOOK LIKE THAT—NEVER THINK­ING THAT ONE DAY I WOULD BE ONE OF THOSE GUYS.”

cor­po­rate to look at the num­bers, but I came back for the guys. Even when I was do­ing some­thing else but I was in town, I’d leave the hottest party, come over, and run back­stage. John Cook— one of the main chore­og­ra­phers—would be like, “You want to get up there?” And I’d be like, “Can I? Can I?” And it would be a sur­prise to the au­di­ence. I did it a few times, and it was so fun. You’ve done pretty much all things. Any­thing you haven’t done? There’s still that lin­ger­ing Danc­ing with the Stars. They’ve asked me to do it. They’ve chased down per­sonal friends of mine, and I’m like, “How do they know?” I want to do it. It’s just the tim­ing. They want you when they want you. I’m go­ing back to do­ing some movies this year. My next one is sup­posed to be a com­edy. That one I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to do­ing. The work­ing title is Drunken Zom­bie Apoc­a­lypse, so you can imag­ine what that one’s like.

Isn’t that ev­ery night in Ve­gas? Drunken Zom­bie Apoc­a­lypse?

That would be a great one to film in Ve­gas. Maybe part 2 we’ll do here. Ian [ Zier­ing, who also hosted Chippendales] ran off and did Shark­nado. It was a silly movie but it took off. Maybe I’m walk­ing in his foot­steps. They filmed Shark­nado 4 in Ve­gas… The sharks are at­tack­ing on the roof of the Strato­sphere, and the Chippendales are fight­ing them off with their crotches. John Cook pelvis thrusts and the shark goes f ly­ing [ laughs].

How old were you when you started mod­el­ing?

My mother pushed me into mod­el­ing when I was 13. At that time, I was more con­cerned with BMX bikes, skate­board­ing, hang­ing out with my friends. Once in a while, they’d have th­ese fash­ion shows, and I’d jump in be­cause they needed a teenage boy. But then I got so in­volved in play­ing high school sports that I’d be like, “Mom, I don’t have time for that. I’ve gotta go lift weights.” I was be­ing groomed to be a run­way model from age 13, and didn’t re­ally think about it un­til right now.

You lit­er­ally rep­re­sented the chang­ing face of Amer­i­can fash­ion.

In the ’ 90s, I was a big Ralph Lau­ren model. It was that skate­board­ing, WASPY, kid from the Hamp­tons look. There weren’t too many guys of color on the run­way, you know? I don’t think they were even look­ing at guys of color at the time. But I look back and I think, Wow, I re­ally did some­thing back then. It was ground­break­ing.

When you started out, were you wor­ried about get­ting type­cast?

I think so, and that’s what mo­ti­vated me to do some­thing they wouldn’t ex­pect you to do. Ev­ery time I get a script, I look at it and I say, “Is this some­thing I’ve done be­fore?” I don’t want to just play the hand­some guy. I’ve al­ways thought that just when they think they know who you are, you’ve got to go do some­thing dif­fer­ent that takes you to another level.

Leather jacket, Tod’s ($4,395). The Fo­rum Shops at Cae­sars, 702-7921422; tods.com. T-shirt, John Varvatos ($178). The Fo­rum Shops at Cae­sars, 702-939-0922; john­var­vatos.com. Pants, Seven For All Mankind ($249). Saks Fifth Av­enue, Fash­ion Show, 702733-8300

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