Tyson Beckford hopes that one day, a male model can successfully work his femme side
Haven’t we had enough bloodthirsty competitions about catwalking and camera-ready fierceness? Probably not. On Wednesday, Bravo serves up a second season of "Make Me a Supermodel."
There have been some noticeable alterations. Former hostess Nikki Taylor is nowhere in sight. And host Tyson Beckford now takes on a "mentoring" role, while new co-host Nicole Trunfio guides the ladies.
One of the new judges is Jenny Shimizu, the lesbian supermodel who says she once had sexy, romantic affairs with both Madonna and Angelina Jolie. With her boyish hairdo and Vargas Girl tattoos, Shimizu parlayed her andro-dyke look into a successful career.
The new season of "Make Me a Supermodel" gives the boys a stab at gender bending. But for some reason, male androgyny is a tough sale.
Sporting blonde silky tresses and a Joni Mitchell-like voice, contestant Chris is a 22-year-old graphic designer from Chicago. He’s exceptionally beautiful — almost ethereally pretty. But manly? Not so much.
Criticized for being too submissive and lacking confidence, Chris doesn’t make it very far.
When will we see a dude successfully straddle the gender market — like Shimizu did. This week, Dallas Voice asked Tyson Beckford.
"It’s hard. Because the male side of modeling asks for so much masculinity. It’s hard to accept an androgynous male supermodel. We tried it with [Chris]. But he didn’t stand up to it. Because on certain shoots, you’re still going to have to be able to toughen up. If Chris was able to flip it and go both sides, he would have done really well," Beckford says.
On the first challenge, Chris is paired up with Branden, an 18-year-old snowboarding, self-confessed "ladies man." When Branden and Chris are asked to look "intimate" for a pajama shoot, Branden worries that people will think he’s gay.
And that’s when Coach Beckford helped out.
"I told Branden, ‘Look. You know your sexuality. You know what you like and what you don’t like. Just stand up and do the job,’" Beckford recalls. "And remarkably, Branden did really well — a kid who was nervous, scared and worried that his friends will think that he’s gay. I told him, ‘You know what you like. What do you care?’"
Beckford thinks that the fashion world is ready for a male model to work his feminine side.
"It’s just a feeling of what you’re wearing at the time. If I was modeling a woman’s scarf, and they wanted me to get feminine … When you’re put into that place and time, you just can do it. It just depends on which designer you’re working for, " Beckford says.
What kind of designer is ready in 2009?
"Any designer that’s ready to push the limits. Look at Jean Paul Gautier’s ads: They’re risquÃ© with the men — anybody that’s willing to try it and shoot it with the right photographer," Beckford says. "That’s all it takes."
"Make Me a Supermodel" premieres Wednesday, March 4 at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
Manhattan scribe Lamar Ariel, left, visits Dallas to read from his fictionalized "epistolary memoir." On Saturday, the twentysomething author of "Ready to Male," holds a book signing at Chocolate Scents, 3926 Oak Lawn Ave. Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. ReadyToMale.com
Dallas author Jenny Block is included in "One Big Happy Family" (Riverside, $25.95) a collection of 18 essays that touch on polyamory, mixed marriages and other realities of modern love. Edited by Rebecca Walker (daughter of Alice, "The Color Purple"), Block’s "And Then We Were Poly" essay kicks off the book and describes having a daughter, a husband and a female partner. Block’s essay is followed by Dan Savage’s essay about his adopted son and his son’s homeless mother.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 27, 2009.