May 08, 1995 12:00 PM

WITH HIS SMOOTH-SHAVEN PATE AND striking profile, Tyson Beckford, 24, is Seventh Avenue’s newest megastar. In March he became the first African-American to sign an exclusive contract with Ralph Lauren. “I’m like a role model, but I didn’t intend to be a role model,” says Tyson, who was minding his own business in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park in 1993 when scouts from a hip-hop magazine, The Source, asked him to pose. “I’m thinkin’, ‘Yeah, this is some porno magazine,’ ” he says. “But everything Was legit.”

The 6’1″, 190-lb. unmarried Adonis—who follows the supermodel tradition of using one name—can’t help but turn is heads. His features mesmerize, says Lauren, because they have “a modern edge.”

Tyson’s striking looks come from his mixed heritage—-and checkered past. His parents are Jamaican; his paternal grandmother is Chinese, his maternal grandfather Panamanian. After some time at New York’s Rockland County Community College, Tyson, who wanted to get into the music business; says, “I hit the streets and got in a little trouble.” He spent a night in-jail for suspected car theft (charges were later reduced). Now he travels by air. “I’m Superman not supermodel,” he says, with a laugh. “With all the flying I do, I’m going to get my own cape.”

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