She’s covered the pages of Vogue numerous times. She’s hosted a TV show with Naomi Campbell and Karolina Kurkova. She’s famously Irish danced down Jean Paul Gaultier’s runway. This Super Styler really needs no introduction… it’s the incredible Canadian supermodel, Coco Rocha!
We were lucky enough to chat with Coco last week at The Mira hotel as she was in Hong Kong to help judge the Dream Beautiful Mary Kay competition. The competition saw 24 pairs of girls from all over Asia compete to be the face and the make-up artist for Mary Kay cosmetics. So who better to judge along with our former That Girl Cara G, photographer Jason Capobianco, stylist Christie Simpson and make-up artist Luis Casco than the legendary Queen of Posing?
We were so excited to meet Coco and she really did look like a superstar! Her dark purple lipstick and winged false eyelashes made her fringed bob even more dramatic, perfectly complementing the sculpted black Sass & Bide dress that she wore. Despite her striking appearance, her polite and sweet manner made us feel completely at ease. We talked to Coco about her pregnancy announcement, her brand new 1,000-page book, her charitable work and the most memorable moments in her career so far…
First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! Are you excited for this new stage in your life?
Thank you! Yes, very excited – I’m so excited to be a mummy. It just like makes me giggle and go all funny inside when I think about it!
We loved the video on your Instagram that you did to announce the pregnancy. Did you shoot that while you were working on your new book, Study of Pose? You seem to be wearing a similar leotard!
Oh, thank you! No we didn’t, but we used the same effect… we thought it would be cute, as we’ve worked so much on the book recently. I chose to wear the leotard as I also plan on doing the same thing each month. The video is what we call a ‘rotation’ and it uses 360 photos, which we’re going to keep using over the whole nine months I hope!
Are you going to keep the gender a surprise for yourselves?
No, I couldn’t! I haven’t really bought much, I mean I have had a few little knick knacks that have been sent to me, but when I do want to personally buy things, I feel like I need to know what it is before I even set out. Even though it can be very neutral… I don’t know, there’s something about how I must know!
It’s exciting to have that moment of finding out as well!
Yes – I mean it’s the same sort of feeling, you find out earlier or you find out later… it’s still a surprise!
Is this the book, Study of Pose, here? Tell us more about it!
James (Coco’s husband): It’s super big…
Coco: It’s 1,000 photos – each photo is numbered and there’s a forward by Gaultier. There’s also a digital version that we hope to have out soon. The digital version will be the same kind of thing, but with 360 rotations that you can actually play with yourself…
How long did it take for you to put it all together?
It took three days to shoot it, but to make a book is a very long process, which I didn’t know. It actually took two years to make! At the beginning a lot of people were saying “you can’t make a book that’s that big, with so many pages” – so it was a lot no’s before we worked it out. And then thankfully Harper Collins were able to give us everything we in fact wanted… I’m very excited about it – it’s our other baby!
Did you find it difficult to think of each pose or was it something that came naturally to you? You are the queen of posing!
At the beginning we were just playing around, seeing what we could do. Then there were a lot of references we used. James would be there with the photographer Steven Sebring, and they would look up references for me, from Art History to Film Noir to Pop Culture. They would give me a name, and then I would work off that. For example they would give me, I don’t know… Michael Jackson or Grace Jones. What would they look like? And all of a sudden I would try to give them something – even if I had know idea what the reference was. It was just playing off certain characters, which we thought was important. There are so many historical images that we look at and we know straight away who that is, what that is, and so there’s a lot of that in there.
Here’s a question from our readers that we were tweeted: do you go through poses in your mind and do you ever dream about posing?
Have I ever dreamed about posing… that’s the first time someone’s asked me that! I don’t think I have, but sometimes I do go to sleep and I see flashes. If it’s been a long day and I’m real tired, I physically close my eyes and I see a camera and a flash. But do I dream about posing? Probably not! But early on in my career, I went to Taipei and that is kind of where I learnt my posing technique if you will call it that, and I just thought that was how one poses. When I went to New York and did it, they kind of laughed at me, but thought it was interesting at the same time. Over the years I’ve perfected it or tried to improve it, but at the beginning in Taipei they always told me to go home and practice as much as I could, and I would say the same to girls now. Go home, practice in front of the mirror and in front of your family. It’s the most awkward thing, but if you can pose in front of a family member you can do it in front of a studio!
When did you actually go to Taipei?
I was 15 – very young!
You’ve also worked with the Model Alliance – can you tell us more about it and if you think it would have made a difference to your career path if it had been in place when you were younger?
I worked with Model Alliance for a few years, but recently three of us board members removed ourselves, so I’m not working with them any more. But the work that we did do in passing a law for underage models I think was a huge step. It’s just something that will go down in my history book… it’s been nice to be known for the photos I’ve taken, but the Child Model Law is something I’m very excited to have been a part of. If there had been people out there early on in my career that were vouching for things and looking out for models, maybe it would have been helpful? But who knows, it really is up to the model to stand up for herself too. You know, as much as someone else can reach out a hand and try and help you, you’ve got to reach out too. So I try to tell new girls that if there’s something they feel uncomfortable doing, let people know. It’s hard to read your mind and you’ve got to do a lot of the talking as well! So the more I started to be outspoken about things, the easier it was got for me. It’s important for other girls to learn the same.
Apart from The Model Alliance, you’ve also worked with the charity Senhoa Foundation, do you still work with them and have you travelled in Asia a lot ?
Yes, definitely I still work with them, I love the whole business idea of what they’ve come together and done. I mean there are a lot of companies who’ve raised money for charity, which is always great, but their idea of helping these survivors and giving them a job as jewellery designers and makers, and then the money going back to them is quite amazing. They feel like they’re part of the whole process and then the girls that are underage that are about 15, 14 or younger, they get to go to school and they’re taken care. The girls who are older, if they wish to work they can. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to and they’re still provided for. They’re actually paid better than teachers in Cambodia so they’re a great charity, a smart charity.
What drew you to that charity in particular?
Well funnily enough, the people who did the video for our wedding! One of the producers is a founder and just explained her charity to us and talked about it – I just thought it was so fascinating and interesting so we kept in touch. Then we did our own line with them and we continue to support and work with them whenever we can.
You’re a social media pro… how do you manage all the platforms that you’re on (google+, Facebook, Instagram, the blog)? Do you have other people to help?
Well, the only person I have is James right now and we work together on it. I do have PR teams and agents, but they don’t work on my social media. Nowadays, we understand when we’re being sold something – or when it’s not being authentic and it doesn’t sound like it’s that individual. As a consumer, I also know when I’m being sold something and I don’t want to do that to people. I want them to feel the experience of it, as I’m talking to them about day-to-day life, family or work. I want them to think ‘that is Coco, it’s her talking to us’.
Although you share a lot on social media, you still manage to keep your private life separate. How do you keep this balance and is there a fine line with what you will and won’t share?
I feel like we are such an open book. I put my wedding video up and my baby announcement – all of that, which some people think are very personal things and which they wouldn’t want to share – and that’s totally okay. But when I do share those things, I’ve given enough that people don’t ask for more… that means I get to choose – I’m almost my own PR! I get to choose what I put out to people and people respect that, they don’t ask for more and that’s great. The fact that people can be kind enough to not say, “we need more things for your life, we’re looking for gossip or juice on you” is amazing.
Any social media tips for us?
Some people don’t believe this, but it’s worked for us. I would say to get on any new app or new social media app that you possibly can. We went on Twitter and Instagram very early on when no one knew what they were. We just did it, we got the name, the handle and we thought, if this thing blows up great and if it doesn’t, well, no loss to us right?
When there’s not that many people on new apps it really works well. On Instagram, people would look for accounts in the fashion world and think, “oh there’s that model, we should follow her because there’s not that many people on it” and all of a sudden it’s kind of like this chain effect. If you get lots of followers on one platform it gets bigger and bigger on other platforms. It seems to work for a lot of companies too, like the first magazine on there. If you’re on there early people will follow you because you seem to know what you’re doing. If you get tons of followers that’s cool, but if you only get a few then maybe the apps not doing well and at least it’s some! You never know, all of a sudden that app could blow up and become Twitter or Instagram.
You’ve had an incredible career so far working with some amazing designers – what are some of your most memorable moments so far?
Memorable… I’d definitely say passing the Child Model Law was something I was smiling about a lot. Then there’s my Gaultier moment, Irish dancing down his runway. When I did it, it just seemed like a fun thing I did, but then it has been referenced in my life so many times… in almost every article written about me and it’s spoken about almost every day when I talk to people, so that definitely had a huge impact on my career. Then there’s Steven Meisel, who in fact made my career and gave me the chance with my first Vogue cover. That was just groundbreaking for my career, as was my American Vogue cover with the top ten models at the time. These things just keep giving me that wow! I’ve had some amazing things happen in my career so far…
Do you have any hopes and dreams for the future and do you think having a little one on the way might make you have some different career choices?
To be honest, everything right now is all about the baby – I’m so excited about that. It’s going to be my whole life for sure, but there will still be times to think of goals in the career world. Am I thinking about them right now? No, I’m just too excited about baby clothes and the nursery to even think about those things, but when interesting projects arise I’m the type that’s like “well that’s interesting let’s keep talking about this”. Some people might think, that’s a weird career move for Coco, doing TV or being a spokesperson or just being outspoken! But there are some things that I just think will be interesting for my career path. Like social media, people thought it was such a weird concept for a model and yet everyone uses it now. I’m always intrigued… give me a new project and I just might do it!
If you had to choose your Top 5 Designers, who would they be?
That’s like asking which one is your favourite child! But I do have close relationships with Zac Posen, Gaultier, Christian Siriano and… two more… (James: “Karl”) – Karl yes, and Rebecca Minkoff, definitely. All those designers just seem to know how to make you feel like you’re human. You sometimes go into castings and fittings and you just feel like a hanger – you put the clothes on, walk in and walk out. Gaultier, for example, at his fittings you would wait around a lot and think what’s going on out there with the next girl? But it’s because he would sit down with you and tell you the whole story, he would even give you cake! At his last show there would be a whole cake for everyone and he’s just so sweet and kind. That’s why his models respond so well on the runway. If he told you ‘okay, so today this show is about Madonna and it’s inspired by the cone bra’, you feel that you’ve got to come out and play that character, just because of how he would treat you and make you feel part of the show. That’s why his shows were so theatrical – the models just wanted to perform for him!
What will you be looking for in the winner of the Mary Kay competition?
Looking for a face of their company for the next year is a huge responsibly. As a model, you’re always looking for those sorts of relationships and it’s great to have a great face for sure, especially when you’re selling cosmetics. But on the other hand, it has to be more than that, especially now. It has to be more about your personality and the confidence you bring. Can you answer questions? Are you relatable? As aspirational as cosmetics is, people still want to relate to you – all of that is part of the package. Watching a girl on the runway, now that’s hard for me to be like, is she the whole package? However, you can learn a lot from a girl from how she walks into a room, from her photos and from her walk without even having the chance to talk to her.
When a girl comes into a room and she’s shy, you can tell from how she holds her body, just the movement of hunching her shoulders over! Interesting fact – when you’re a fourteen year old girl in high school, the tallest girl in your class, you’re most likely going to be very hunched because you want to be just like the rest of the kids. But when you enter into this stratosphere of models, they teach you right away to embrace the fact that you’re tall, wear your heels, be six foot six – it’s all good! Some girls learn that very quickly and all of a sudden you can just tell by the way she walks on that runway, the confidence she brings to the table. Also it doesn’t always have to be perfect – the walk to me, when it’s this interesting walk, tells me she’s fine with being who she wants to be. For a walk that’s been highly trained, that tells me that you don’t necessarily bring your own personality… weird things like that believe it or not! When you come into a room, I can tell a little bit about who you are just by how you respond to things, so it’s a weird way to cast people but it’s effective.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young girls who aspire to have the kind of career you’ve had?
As cheesy as this sounds – be different! There are a thousand girls walking into that casting and they’re all beautiful girls, no doubt about that. So why would I choose you over the next girl? It’s usually because there is something different – it doesn’t have to be that you have different cheekbones, or your lips are bigger, no, none of that. It’s more about what you bring to the table. In fact, you might not be the “classic beauty” or the classic commercial look, but you brought something to the casting that just made me think “wow, she was so interesting, I’ve got to bring her back.” That’s what you want from a casting or a competition.
Thanks so much for your time Coco!
Jet-lag, pregnancy and a whole day of interviews must have left Coco feeling pretty exhausted, but that didn’t stop her from being kind and welcoming. Her level of success just goes to show that she is one savvy and sassy model who knows what she wants! She isn’t afraid to say no and is very principled, but she also has a playful, almost geeky side to her personality. Despite working with the best designers and photographers in the world, Coco is one of the most down-to-earth models out there. We wish her and James every happiness as their family grows!
Check out the rest of our Super Stylers here!