Coco Rocha (The ModelScouts Interview)

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Coco Rocha is loved by the media and fashion industries. Her practice of Irish dancing has endeared her to both the general masses and industry giants, and her earthy appeal and classic looks have won her sought after contracts with cosmetic giants YSL and Rimmel. She is a runway star for Marc Jacobs, Versace, Prada, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Anna Sui, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Balenciaga, and Jean Paul Gaultier, where she ignited a firestorm in the fashion industry when she opened and closed Gaultier’s Fall 2007 show by performing an Irish dance down the runway.

coco rocha

Coco Rocha for Yves Saint Laurent


Coco has an instinctive ability to capture the essence of the editorial stories she is shooting – a talent frequently attributed to her background as a dancer and performer. She works regularly with the most important photographers including Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, Arthur Elgort, Nathaniel Goldberg, Mikael Jansson, Greg Kadel, Steven Klein, Annie Leibowitz, Peter Lindbergh, Craig McDean, Nick Night, David Sims, Mario Sorrenti, Solve Sundsbo, Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin. Her advertising campaigns include Christian Dior, Chanel, YSL Beaute, YSL Fragrance Elle, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, The Gap, PHI, Nicole Farhi and DeBeers.

In addition, Coco has an exciting array of editorial work and shoots for the most prestigious titles, including numerous editions of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, W, Numero and V and her covers include Vogue (US, Italia, Nippon, Korea, Spanish, Mexico, Latin America and Brazil), Numero (Paris, Korea), ID, Dazed & Confused (UK, Japan), Elle (Canada, France), Muse and Time Style & Design. In December 2008, Coco was immortalized by Rootstein Display Mannequins when they unveiled the “Coco” mannequin.

A few days ago, ModelScouts’ Curtis Penn sat down with Coco to talk to her about how she got her start in the industry and where she is today. Coco was, of course, the ultimate professional. Always gracious, with a fantastic sense of humor, and with what seems to be an endless supply of energy, she gave us this wonderful interview.


Coco Rocha Supermodel

MS: You were discovered by model scout Charles Stuart. Was becoming a model ever something that you thought about?

CR: Actually, no. I didn’t even know what a model was when I was scouted. When he came up to me I was kind of laughing, and all my friends were with me saying “this is a joke”. I was very much the tomboy, boys didn’t really like me, I was very awkward. So, no, I never thought of myself as some supermodel bombshell. Then he was a little more persistent, so, I said ok, why not, let’s try this modeling thing, and here we are.

MS: Do you remember your first modeling job?

CR: I remember a few of my first modeling jobs, but my very first, was getting my test shots done by Charles Stuart. The song playing at the time was Like a Virgin and he was dancing to it. It was hilarious. So, I was thinking, who is this man, what am I doing here? He was just trying to get me relaxed and he would say “don’t worry, we’re just having fun here”, and I am like, no, not to Like A Virgin. So, that was interesting. My mom was there with me though, so I knew everything was fine. He’s going to kill me for having said that, but it was all in good fun.

MS: Well, that has to be better than the didgeridoo.

CR: Yeah, sometimes you get the weirdest things. I had someone say to me recently “the mood, the mood for this shoot is like didgeridoo, like ooohh, ooohh. I was thinking, no, let’s just take pictures, we don’t need to do that.


MS: What was the first major market that you worked in?

CR: I went to New York, and that did not work out for me. I went and saw a few clients, and thought I was doing amazing, but it just didn’t work out. So, I left and went to model in Taipei and Singapore. Then I returned to New York, and it took off from there. I worked with Steven Meisel and he helped me.

MS: Was that your shoot for Italian Vogue?

CR: Yes, but it was actually for 6 months. I was his muse. He kind of took me under his wing. He gave me Italian Vogue’s, he gave me campaigns. Because one man said “you, I want”, then the rest say “I like you too”. So, the clients I went and saw the first time in New York loved me this time. So, it’s just interesting. It’s very influential, whoever you know, whoever works with you, then the rest love you.

MS: Do you have a favourite market that you have worked in?

CR: Hmmm, I would say Asia is very hard. Taipei was the hardest thing for me.

MS: Interesting, what was hard about that particular market?

CR: Taipei is like bootcamp for models. I am known for being a big poser, I just pose, pose, pose, pose, it’s like a dance. But, if any girl is sent to Taipei they will have to learn to pose. It is just insane how they teach you to just go, go, go. So, it’s a great education for new models who really want to learn how to become a model. But, you will do two or more shoots a day, with roughly 45 looks per shoot. They are catalog only.

The food is very strange, and I like anything. Two month contracts without your parents or friends, there was no Skype at that time, there was only MSN on the slowest computer, no Wi-Fi. It was definitely a strain being apart for that long. My mom is a flight attendant so I am used to being alone, but that was a long time.

So, after that, it was make or break. Did I really want to be a model? Because this is what it seems like, or am I done with it. I always tell girls, if you want to be a model go to Taipei first, and if you want to be successful, then go to New York and Europe, where the really big clients are.

Coco Rocha Harpers Bazaar

Coco Rocha for Harper’s Bazaar


MS: That is great advice. You talked about posing and being able to move well during a shoot, do you think your dance background helped you?

CR: Dance can be a part of it, but as Charles’ daughter Fabianne, who also dances can attest, Irish dancing is not really the coolest for the moves. You definitely don’t use your arms in the greatest ways. So, I think to a tiny degree it did help, but the rest, no it really didn’t have much to do with it. I am a cheesy, corny kind of girl. I like musicals, I like to be theatrical, so I think that a lot of my ability to move came from that. Dance definitely helped with stamina, so when a photographer says “jump” a thousand times, and do cartwheels in high heels, I was able to do it. But, it was definitely a mixture of being a cheesy cheeseball who loves to be theatrical, and having a dancers body to help with the stamina.

MS: You have worked for some very famous designers, did you ever get butterflies before a show, or do you ever get nervous?

CR: Believe it or not, I get more nervous now than when I started, because now I know who they are. When I first started, I met Naomi Campbell, and had to ask my agent who she was. I really didn’t know who people were, like Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of American Vogue. People would say to me “you have to meet her today” and I would say “who is she, and why is she so influential?” So, when I work with a new girl and she doesn’t know who Gaultier is for instance, I have to remember that, of course, I didn’t know who he was either at the beginning. It is important to a degree to know who every designer is, but on the other hand, if I had known who they were I would have been just crazy with butterflies. I wouldn’t recommend that every new model do it that way, because it can be very awkward if you don’t know the who the top clients are.


MS: What advice would you have for new models who are trying to overcome their first time jitters?

CR: A person is just a person, that’s all you have to think. Of course, you treat them with respect, because usually they are an elder to you. Everyone is very nice, so it doesn’t have to be awkward or nerve wracking. They all want the same thing that you do, whether it is a great photo, or a great show.

MS: Faces West is one of the most important events for models and talent to be discovered, and for international scouts to find new faces. In addition to getting discovered by top agencies, what other benefits do you see that new models will receive from attending Faces West?

Coco Rocha Study of Pose

Coco Rocha – The Study of Pose

CR: I love the fact that there isn’t a huge amount of models. I mean, there are a lot of models here, but in relation to the amount of agents that come to Faces West, the models have the best odds of having a call back, or to even get to go to go-sees. To get to go to go-sees with every agent, that is amazing! Here they have a great opportunity to get signed, or to speak directly with the agents and say “hey, you may not have signed me today, but what can I work on to improve”. You have over 40 or so agents here, that is an insane amount of worldwide agents. So, for new models to have that opportunity there really is no where else like it. There may be those events in the U.S. where thousands of models come, but the odds and of an agent getting the chance to really get a good look at you is non-existent. So, Faces West is great from that aspect, and here you know that all the agents are legit, and in coming here you are going to be safe.

MS: Your mother agent played an enormous role in helping you get signed to several of the world’s top agencies, including Elite Models and Storm. How important is a model’s relationship with his or her mother agency?

CR: Well, it is very important that a model’s mother agent signs their models to appropriate agencies that are legitimate. Because my mother agent, Charles had a lot of contacts, and owns Faces West it was very good for me. Unfortunately, some mother agents in smaller or rural areas for example, don’t have the contacts, so it is important to make sure they do by attending an event like this, or by working with ModelScouts.com. It is also important that mother agents be available on the phone if their model needs something. Charles was always very good that way, he was always on top of what was going on with me and all the other agencies I was working with.

MS: ModelScouts.com works with models who are primarily new to the market, and they would very much like to work with international agencies. What would be your 3 best pieces of advice you would give a new model who is just starting out?

CR: First, I would say, always work with legitimate modeling agents. I know it is hard to say, because when you are just starting out it is hard to know. But, coming to events like Faces West, or using ModelScouts.com is a great place for new models to start. They have decades of experience and work with great agencies that have been screened. Also, try to work with agents that you get a good vibe from. Many of the agencies have the same type of girls or guys, so it is always best to pick one that you feel most comfortable with, not necessarily the biggest one.

Second, always be true to yourself, be who you really are, and don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable. For me, saying no to the few jobs that I don’t want to do, such as nude or semi-nude photos, and telling the agents “no, this is not what I really want”, because of my particular morals, goals, etc., then the agents know that I am taking things seriously. In the long run, the agents will respect you more for it.


Third, have other interests. For me it was dance, for others it could be art, history, sports, etc. Whatever hobbies you have now, keep doing them. It can be exhausting to just to be thinking about modeling all the time, and you can burn out from it very easily. It is important to keep balanced. So, having friends, family, and other interests on the side will go a long way in helping your career.

MS: How important has your family been to your success?

CR: Very important. My mom has been number one in helping me out. Also, my dad in Toronto whenever I go out there. I am very family oriented, family is number one to me. I don’t really like the whole party scene or surrounding myself with too many people from the business. My agents – love them, my best friends, James, and my mom, that’s pretty much it. It was very important to have them around early on, and still now, and not to separate myself from them.

Coco Rocha with Baby Girl Ioni

Coco Rocha with Baby Girl Ioni

MS: So, you feel it’s important for new models to have family or a support system to help keep them grounded?

CR: It’s very important. That’s where it all stems from. If you don’t have a good connection with family or friends, how are you going to have it in the workplace? How are you going to be able to express yourself if you can’t express yourself to your mom, dad, boyfriend, etc?

MS: Giving back is very important to you, and you support several charities. We certainly commend you for using your fame and voice to support these charities. Can you tell us about them?

CR: Well, thank you. Yes, right now, I have Strut For A Cure and Lakay Pam. Strut For A Cure supports children with cancer in Canada, and Lakay Pam is for children in need in Haiti. I always try to support charities that help children. I first started out helping the Children’s Aid Society where I was teaching dance to kids in Harlem and things like that. Then, Strut For A Cure was started by my cousin, who at the time was eleven years old, and wanted to do a runway show for charity in Barrie, Ontario. Now, it has become a huge production in Canada, which is fantastic.

MS: There is a hilarious video of you online, in which you are singing the Jungle Book song. Who is the person in the video singing with you?

CR: That was my dad. My dad is quite the comedian. In fact, breaking news, we are trying to get my dad an agent for acting or comedy. He used to do stand-up in England when he was younger, so we are trying to get him to start up again, to rekindle his career. The funny thing is though, that now we have set up meetings for him he wants to back out and he says “no, no, no”. But, I tell him “remember Jungle Book and how well that did.” He likes to make people laugh. We even sang it on my wedding video. We didn’t show that part to everybody though.

MS: Well, that must be where you get your wonderful sense of humor.

CR: It might be, the English always have a funny sense of humor, wouldn’t you agree?

MS: Yes, we definitely agree. Well, thank you so much Coco for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us and all your fans at ModelScouts.com, we really appreciate it.

CR: You are very welcome, and thank you so much.

Coco Rocha ModelScouts.com

Coco with ModelScouts’ Curtis Penn


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