"Whatever I do, I want to do it well. I don’t want to, say, go into acting just because that’s the next thing to do; I want to learn how to be really good at it. “ Explains Rocha. A recent collaboration with accessories label BaubleBar proves her eye for statement-making costume jewelry – think show-stealing necklaces with huge crystals and stones or a row of pearls on a ear cuff. What’s next on the list?
Affectionately dubbed the “Queen of Posing”, she has amazed one and all with her ability to hit poses in quick succession. Her record so far? One hundred and sixty poses per minute. Back in 2003, Rocha was a 14-year-old girl who had devoted half her life to dance when Charles Stuart (owner of acclaimed model management agency in Vancouver, Charles Stuart International Models) spotted her during an Irish dance competition. The Canadian girl spent a few months in Singapore and Taipei building a portfolio before moving to New York to work on an exclusive six-month stint with photographer Steven Meisel (whom the industry knows as the ‘model maker’). She left an indelible impression on the fashion industry when she Irish-jigged her way down the runway of Jean Paul Gaultier (Fall-Winter ’07), which led to it being remembered as the ‘Coco Moment’. “I attribute my success to them [Steven Meisel and Jean Paul Gaultier],”shares Rocha.
While Rocha describes Manhattan as the city with “so much going on that I have to live slightly outside of it”, she now resides in Westchester with husband, James Conran. They both work from home (“I love days where I stay in in my pajamas and just watch Netflix,” says the 26-year-old) and make the occasional jaunts to Manhattan to catch up with friends, for photo shoots, and various meetings for her soon-to-be-published book, Study of Pose, which is due out this October.
Conceptualized and photographed by Steven Sebring, the book contains 1,000 poses executed by Rocha; it was a challenge thrown by the photographer whom she had met at a dinner party in 2010. At that time, Sebring was developing a unique system, called The Rig, that he felt could revolutionize fashion photography. He described it as “the fourth dimension”, an experimental form of photography that, in a nutshell, works very much like the “bullet time” shots made famous in the Matrix. While a technical explanation would not do this process justice, Rocha explains, “It’s almost as if the technology makes movement seem tangible and the energy of the pose truly alive. Steven said he couldn’t find a anyone he thought was capable of doing one thousand poses which sounded like a challenge to me. I love a good challenge.”
“By using The Rig for this project, the concept of capturing 1,000 poses became much more contemporary, educational and interactive than I ever could have dreamed,” explains Sebring. Every shot of Rocha in the traditionally printed book is available in its 360-degree digital glory (which can be accessed when you buy its digital book), where every pose can be viewed and studied in great detail from one hundred different, seamless angles. “It was me in the middle and a hundred cameras all around me,” Rocha recalls the creative process.
How did you fall in love with dancing?
I loved to perform when I was young, and I still do. Music always inspires me while modeling – it brings me back to performing. I put 110% into it and I think everyone gets more creative when they see someone else perform.
How, do you think, your background in dancing has helped you advance in modeling?
I think models that used to dance are generally better models. They are less nervous under the watchful eye of the camera and they know how to use their body. In my new book, you’ll see how different types of dance are used as inspiration. To know and understand your body is very important, it helps you to see what an angle looks like without having to look at the photo. In dance, you are trained to position your hand or curve your body in a certain way without looking at it.
What do you wish to achieve through this book?
There are a few messages. One is to educate younger models and people who think modeling is easy. It’s a portfolio of poses and a proof of how complex and nuanced it can be. On the other hand, it is supposed to be funny. A book of a thousand poses – that’s a funny thing! For artists and sculptors out there, the digital version allows you to have a 360-degree view of the poses. It’s like seeing a thousand ways the body moves and really is a different way of looking at art. The biggest thing that I’m excited about is the fact this is the first book of its kind. This is the dictionary for modeling and I doubt anyone else will attempt this. It’s interesting. Either you will laugh at it, or be inspired by it. I hope both!
You mentioned in Study of Pose, “I would be lying if I said I didn’t hit a few walls in the three days we shot this book.” What were the main challenges faced?
Trying to find a thousand was definitely a challenge. I kept questioning myself, “Did I already do that pose?” My husband and Steven were throwing out inspiration like ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and ‘Michael Jackson’ to coach me into new poses. There were no props, it was just me. It was quite daunting and more than a few times I wondered if I even had it in me to come up with 1000.
How many poses were shot before shortlisting it to 1,000?
Maybe around 1,050. You can’t really go any further than that, or at least I couldn’t!
You’ve been an inspiration to aspiring models. What words of advice do you have for them?
It’s important they learn how to build confidence. Nine years ago, I didn’t have the confidence to move. Photographers had to move me. We’re there to inspire. A lot of girls are very nervous about being judged on how they move. On the other hand I think over confidence and arrogance can be an issue for young models. I’ve always lived by the mantra “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice”.