Coco Rocha: Young Women Should Know That They Have a Voice
Interview by Mariia Grazhina Chaplin
Coco Rocha is best known for her theatrical poses and elfin features. She is an active rights advocate and ambassador for models, founder of Model Camp, “Study of Pose” author, modeling agency owner, and international supermodel. At the 2021 World Influencers and Bloggers Awards, Rocha was awarded The Fashion Industry Influencer title for lifetime achievement and innovation.
You are a rare example of a talented model and a businesswoman. How do you succeed in managing this combination?
Modeling and business, in general, have more in common than some might think. There is a 10% element of luck, and then it’s 90% of what you do with that lucky break. I’ve had my share of fortunate events, but I also think I’ve tried to apply myself in everything I’ve done. I haven’t always succeeded, but I count all my failings in business as a life lesson worth learning.
Tell us about your charity projects.
For the last decade, I’ve worked with many of the same charities. One is DKMS, a bone marrow registry that is literally out there saving lives in a way no one else can. I’ve had family that battled cancer, so this is very close to my heart. I’m also an advocate for AmFAR and am excited to see a cure for AIDS in my lifetime, I really believe that.
Tell us about the book you published “Study of Pose.”
I wrote the book with the idea that it could become a legitimate reference book for models, photographers, artists, dancers, and really anyone with an appreciation of the arts. For me personally, it’s my homage to every painting, movie, and image that has influenced my work as a model. When you look through the book, you’ll see poses that take cues from classic art like Botticelli and Michelangelo and others that are referencing Charlie Chaplin, Michael Jackson, and everything in between. I tried to make a timeless book that draws inspiration from the past, and I hope will inspire future generations.
One of the important things you teach when building a career strategy is how to deal with abuse. Could you share at least one piece of advice on what models can do in this situation?
They should speak up, loud and clear to anyone who will listen. Young women should know that they have a voice and that it is powerful, and demand to be heard.
Tell us about your students who have achieved the greatest success in their careers.
I taught Kendall Jenner to pose and the runway a decade ago so I would say she has had a pretty successful career. I’ve taught more than 2,000 models since Kendall though, and I think if I’ve helped them to take pride in their craft, to find joy in modeling, and yet still stay true to themselves, then they are all successful.
Would your school be beneficial for girls who do not plan to build modeling careers?
We host a lot of TikTok stars now also. Young men and women who grew millions and millions of followers in the last 12 months. One boy reached 10 million the day he came to camp. I think the line between influencer and model is increasingly thin. Good influencers need to model and good models need to influence. We teach it all.
In your opinion, what will be the model standards in 2030?
I can’t even tell you the model standards of 2022! When I look at how far we have come since 2010, I know there will continue to be drastic changes. I think the progress has been positive in the last 10 years and I hope for the same for the next 10 years—but unfortunately upward progress is not always guaranteed.
What are the most painful and important topics in modeling nowadays?
I think financial transparency is extremely important and lacking in modeling. Body image issues and body dysmorphia plague many, as does imposter syndrome. Sexual harassment and abuse continue to be an issue in this industry, like in so many others.
Do you think the fashion industry needs to be changed? What would you like to change?
I’ve been trying to change things from the inside out since the beginning of my career. When I started on social media in the early 2000s, there were so many who told me I was ruining the fantasy of being this silent high fashion model. There was real pressure from industry leaders for me to stop, but having a voice, an opinion and a platform was more important to me. I spoke out about predators 10 years before the #metoo movement and faced enormous backlash in doing so. In 2013, together with a few other models, I fought hard to expand the laws that protected child models and put my own career on the line to do so. Establishing my own agency in 2016 was my way of helping to lead by example, and Coco Rocha Model Camp is my way of giving models the tools they need to change the industry along with me.
Do models today without a strong Instagram account have fewer chances than Influencer models? Does the number of followers influence the brands’ choice for cooperation?
Having a big following will get you a second look, but there are so many other factors. Who are your followers? Are they male or female? Where do they live? What is their household income? What is their age? Every client has a different profile.
Have you made any mistakes in your career, and if so, do you regret them?
I’ve made many and they all brought me to this moment.
What is the most influential social network, in your opinion?
It has been Instagram for a long time, but it is losing its edge to TikTok. Within the next year, in fashion, I think both will find an equal footing.
How do you consider the future of social networks? Will they replace glossy magazines or have they already done?
Most glossy magazines could not survive without social media now, but social media would be just fine without magazines. So, you see where the power is.