Coco Rocha Talks Spring Racing and Model Mentoring
By Kate Moffatt for Marie Claire
The refreshingly humble Coco Rocha takes time out to chat spring racing, model mentoring and those “pinch me” moments from her career.
Welcome to Australia, Coco! What is it about Melbourne Cup that you’re most looking forward to?
Thank you! I’m so excited that the VRC invited me to be one of their international style guests. That’s such an honour. For me personally though, as nice as horse racing is, it’s all about the fashion! I’m so looking forward to judging the Myer Fashions on The Field awards and just soaking up the atmosphere.
You’re the queen of the pose: when did you first realise you had this gift?
I’m from Canada, so in order to get a visa for the States, I was sent to work in Taipei, and that’s how they model there. They do these catalogues with 40-70 photos a day where you just have to keep posing. Sometimes at castings, I’d be posing against another model, so I really thought that was how it was done. Then I came to the States and got an exclusive with photographer Steven Meisel and I think he kind of laughed at me for it (laughs). Since then it’s just been my forte, I guess you could say. It’s just what I do now. It’s funny because sometimes I’m just like, “can I just stand here with the rest of the models?”, and they’re like, “no, let’s see you pose!” (laughs).
You have a massive following on social media: how do you think this has helped shape your career?
When I first started out, I had a blog talking about my day-to day-activities, nothing too exciting, but then I realized that people were actually interested in what a model does between shoots. After that, it became a great platform to get my point of view across – for instance, I had what I thought was a great interview with a magazine once, but they completely turned my words around. So from that I realized, this is the perfect time to use my blog and really set the record straight.On the other hand, when you have a lot of followers, that’s an audience that advertisers definitely value. I mean, before social media, most models would have two or three seasons at best, but now models can have longer careers, because these companies want to see if you’d be helpful in marketing their brand. It’s a whole new ballgame now.
You’ve been a devout Jehovah’s Witness since you were a child, so you have a strict ‘no nudity’ policy. In an industry where girls face a lot of pressure over their image, how did you get people to listen to your point of view?
When I started modeling, there was no social media, and models didn’t have the chance to express their point of view. But Anna Wintour asked me to speak on behalf of models at a CFDA conference in the States, where I was talking to designers about models on the runway. I thought it was amazing to have her blessing. Since then I’ve been vocal on the issue – if a girl doesn’t want to pose nude, or with a cigarette in her hand or fur on her back, then she shouldn’t have to. I wanted to be the voice for models and make them see that they’re not going to lose their job just because they speak out. In fact, it might just improve their career. I wanted to let the younger generation know that it’s ok to say no every now and again.
Filming of ‘The Face’ is just about to take place in Australia: how did you find the experience of working on the show in America?
I’m still in touch with my girls. The experience of mentoring models is something I treasured. I really think you need a big sister in this industry. It’s definitely something I didn’t have. I had great photographers who helped my career of course, but there’s something about having another model take you under their wing and help you out that is so special. The mentoring process isn’t one that’s just finished for me because the show ended either: I still get regular questions from Margaux and Stephanie (both members of Team Coco on ‘The Face’). Plus I’m meeting up for dinner with Madeleine tonight, who was on Karolina Kurkova’s team. I love the whole concept of what the show was offering. Having that sort of support group is great.
It took you six months to get permission from fashion industry chiefs to cut your hair: why was that?
Yeah, I had to make sure my contracts were all fulfilled! I didn’t want to just be like, “tada, hey guys, check out my new look!” without consulting them first. I talked to a few people and asked if it was a good idea, and then on the other hand when I was ready to do it, making sure that no-one was like, “wait a second, we wanted a long-haired Coco!” So it was six months from the time I thought of the idea to the point where I actually got it done.
What’s the biggest “pinch me” moment you’ve had since starting in the industry?
I’ve had a few! At the time I didn’t quite understand what it all meant, but to have Steven Meisel work on my career and give me amazing campaigns and covers was definitely something special. Since then – honestly, it’s so funny, you look back and think, ten years ago, no-one knew who I was. I was just a dorky Irish dancing nerd from Canada, and now here I am in Australia, being invited to be a style specialist on behalf of the VRC. It’s moments like those where I just look around and go, “wow”. To have people want you at their events is really an honour and I get excited about that.
5 quick questions:
My favourite designers right now are… Well let’s see - because I’m in Australia I’ll say Sass & Bide! They have sent me every jean known to man. You should see my house right now: it’s like, ‘Diesel, Diesel, Sass & Bide, Sass & Bide, Sass & Bide, Sass & Bide…” It’s not a bad problem to have (laughs).
My style can be described as… I’d say eclectic. It ranges from vintage to what I call futuristic, to grandpa clothes to cutsey clothes. I don’t want to be stuck in one bubble; I like to try different things. I also don’t believe in wearing head-to-toe designer. I like to pair H&M with vintage, or H&M with expensive labels etc.
My secret to gorgeous skin is… Genetics (laughs). No, haha. Maybe a little bit of that though! I try to stay out of the sun, I drink a lot of water though it’s not my favourite thing, and I love to sleep - it really does help. For people that have my pale skin tone, I would say, the sun is not your friend!
The number 1 album on my playlist at the moment is… The Great Gatsby soundtrack! I was on a shoot today and we were playing a lot of that. I was trying to give my best flapper dance.
My top red carpet tip is… To wear something that makes you feel confident. Some people can pull off a lot of crazy outfits because they have the confidence to go with it. Others can be on the red carpet in a plain dress but still can’t pull it off, because they don’t have the confidence. I think it’s all how you portray yourself. The red carpet is like another performance, you’ve gotta give it everything you’ve got!