At 24, Flatbush model Tyrone Edmond appears
to be living life in the fast lane. The abridged story of his
life, so far, goes like this:
Shortly after a break from medical school in Florida, Haitian-born Edmond came to New York to pursue an acting career. He shared an apartment with an uncle in Flatbush and while traveling on the Q train was spotted by a modeling agent who quickly signed him to her agency. The fashion elite soon took notice, and Edmond was booked for photo shoots with Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole and Donna Karan.
He was a smash on the catwalks in Europe where he was dubbed "The Haitian Sensation." On a fashion shoot for Gear Magazine, Edmond met fellow Haitian-Brooklynite Wyclef Jean, the musician and producer, who became his friend and mentor.
All that glamour would have been enough for someone who hadn’t seen what Edmond has seen. But for Edmond, who was born Enoch Edmonds, and grew up in poverty-stricken Cape Haitian, it’s only the beginning of the dream.
"I’m really grateful for my success," he told GO Brooklyn, sitting down for a chat at a Connecticut Muffin coffeehouse in Windsor Terrace. "But for me, the biggest thing in my life is my One Heart Foundation." The One Heart Foundation, which will begin operations in early 2002, according to Edmond, was formed to help educate and bring medical care to children in Haiti and other Third World countries.
"This project is very special to me," said Edmond. "I started the foundation so that I could make a real impact on the lives of children around the world."
In September, he released a calendar to benefit his One Heart charity. The "Tyrone Edmond 2002" calendar features never-before-published, provocative photos of the model. However, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he said profits from the calendar will be donated instead to families of those victims.
"After I heard about what happened, it was just what I had to do," said Edmond, explaining that the profits will go to the 9-11 Fund set up through the American Red Cross.
Growing up in Haiti opened Edmond’s eyes to horrors no child should have to witness. He recalled the starvation, heinous violence and unspeakable living conditions that defined his world.
"You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen. Nothing shocks me now," he said, adding his empathy for the Sept. 11 victims. Edmond’s mother died when he was just 9, and he was adopted by American missionaries, Dr. Mike Ven Devort and his wife, Lauren. The Ven Devort’s, who Edmond refers to as "Mom and Dad," enrolled Edmond in a private school, a luxury few poor Haitian children are afforded. "I was one of the lucky ones," Edmond acknowledged.
At 15, Edmond moved to Florida with his new family. While in high school, he met a young man named Tyrone who became his best friend, and the closest thing to a big brother the teenager had known. After his friend’s death from AIDS, he changed his first name to Tyrone.
"I felt it was right to adopt the name Tyrone to use professionally," said Edmond. "He was so instrumental to my life."
Enrolling in medical school at the University of Miami, with the intention of following in his adopted father’s footsteps, Edmond took an acting class on a whim, and to his surprise, fell in love with the process.
The immediate future looks promising for this aspiring thespian. He leaves for Miami shortly, where he will be collaborating with Jean on two music videos, and he is hiring a private acting coach to sharpen his skills. His medical studies are on hold now, but he is determined to become a doctor later in his life.
"Yeah, I have to finish. I have to get my degree. It’s important to me," he said.
When asked about his newfound celebrity, Edmond laughed and commented, "Well, I’m a good celebrity."
"I love kids. I care for them and I want to do things to help them," Edmond laughed. "I know I’ve been really fortunate, and I want to give back to my community. That’s what I’m all about."
To watch a short video of Tyrone’s rags-to-riches story log onto his Web site, www.tyrone-edmond.com. The video, titled "Visual Cause," opens with the shirtless model strutting down a runway. Moments later the camera pans over scenes of naked children with bloated stomachs playing in the filthy, crowded streets of a Haitian slum. It’s part of the story of Tyrone Edmond after and before. What can’t be seen on camera is his compassionate heart.
The "Tyrone Edmond 2002" calendar ($11.99) can be purchased on these Web sites: www.tyrone-edmond.com and www.amazon.com.