Interview by JANA LETONJA

Over the last 15 years, Coco Rocha has had a dream career in modeling. Considered the world’s first digital supermodel, Coco defined what it means to be a model in the modern age. She wa also honored as one of the top 30 models of the decade by French Vogue. Now Coco is making her years of experience available to a new generation of models via The Coco Rocha Model Camp in New York.

full look DIOR

Coco, tell us how you developed passion for fashion and how did you start a career in modeling.

Modeling was not a goal of mine growing up. I was unexpectedly thrown into it not long after I was scouted at a dance competition by an agent who asked me if I’d ever thought of modeling. All my friends around me burst out laughing because out of all of us, I was the last one anyone thought could model. I think we all had this idea that models were these sexy glamazons and I was far from it. I was a tall lanky teen who liked to wear sneakers and oversized sweaters. Eventually, my mom allowed me to give it a try and we thought it would be a fun summer time job. 20 years later, I’m still doing it. I’ve obviously learnt so much along the way and have such an appreciation that I get to work with some of the masters of their craft. I will never take it for granted that I’ve gotten to watch true geniuses in fashion, from John Galliano to Steven Meisel and Jean Paul Gaultier, do what they do best up close and personal.

full look GIVENCHY

You’ve walked the runway for every major designer and shot covers for the world’s most influential magazines. Which moment from your career stands out to you as the one that had the most impact on you personally, and also which one as the one that had the biggest impact on your career?

There have been quite a few and my work with Steven Meisel early in my career is one of them. I had a period of time when I exclusively worked with him for the better part of a year and he sort of became my defacto agent and would tell me and my team what runway shows I should do, what jobs I should take and what clients I should work with. Having him in my corner was enormously influential in shaping my career. Jean Paul Gaultier has given me some defining moments on his runway, from Irish dancing at 18 to walking pregnant with my two year old daughter a few years ago. I look back on many of those shows as real milestones.

French Vogue honored you as one of the top 30 models of the decade. How proud are you to be included in this list, with the other icons of the fashion industry?

I think anytime you get to be listed alongside people you really admire, it’s a surreal moment. I remember when Vogue Italia had their 50th anniversary issue and featured their 50 favorite models on the cover. To be in the company of legends that I have looked up to for the last 20 years was just mindblowing to me.

shirt dress AKRIS PUNTO

You are considered the world’s first digital supermodel and have defined what it means to be a model in the modern age. What do you find the biggest challenges of modeling in today’s world?

I believe someone coined that term because I was one of the first high fashion models to fully embrace and utilize social media at a time when it was a taboo and certainly unexplored. It seems funny now to reflect on a time when there was doubt about the necessity of models, brands and fashion to one day have a digital presence, but here we are.

The integration of AI in fashion represents the next frontier and presents a real double-edged sword. On one hand, the capabilities of AI to generate images, videos and ideas is truly amazing, opening up new and exciting creative avenues. On the flip side, I know we really have to approach this with caution, but we probably won’t. There are questions surrounding authenticity and representation that need our attention. And we can’t overlook the implications for the real human talent within the industry and beyond. It’s a delicate balancing act and we have limited, if any time to prepare as the genie of AI innovation has already been let out of the bottle.

Ultimately, I think AI is a tool like any other, one that can be wielded for constructive or destructive purposes. We have to make sure we’re not losing sight of the human touch that makes fashion and art in general so special. I think there will be serious missteps by some and I really dont think anyone can really truly predict where we are going to be in a year, let alone 10 years time.

You also use your social media to be the voice as a force for good, like in the passage of new laws protecting underage models in New York. Why do you believe it is so important for influential people with such reach to speak up and be the voice for such important causes?

I think the most important thing we can do is safeguard the younger generation and guide them to navigate past the challenges and pitfalls we encountered. Growing up as a young model in this industry, I often wished I had an older sister figure. Honestly, much of what I learned during those early years was through trial and error. I barely made it through my teenage years in fashion, relying heavily on instinct and resilience, but not without cuts and bruises. Once I gained the ability to effect change, I made it my mission to do so.

Collaborating with New York lawmakers a few years back, we worked to rewrite laws safeguarding underage models in New York, which is the center of American fashion. The laws in place were antiquated and posed real risks to minors. Although my outspoken stance garnered some backlash from the industry in general, over time, I believe most have come to recognize the importance of protecting our youth.


In the fashion industry, you’ve been nicknamed as the Queen of pose and you even wrote a book on posing when you published a 2.000 page encyclopedia ‘Study of Pose’. Tell us your best kept secrets on posing and what inspired you to write a book about it.

I’m not sure I have any secrets after making a 2.000 page book. I made it 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. I love when someone shows me their well weathered book or when I go on a shoot and they have some of the pages pinned to a mood board. 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 a future generation.

You’ve used all of your knowledge and experience to privately teach many of today’s biggest modeling stars on their skills in front of the camera, as well as in establishing their personal branding. And you also have your own camp, The Coco Rocha Model Camp, in New York, which is available to a new generation of models. Tell us more about the whole experience one gets when enrolling in your camp.

I’ve been in the industry for 20 years now, but it was around 12 years ago that I started mentoring models one-on-one. I’ve had the privilege of guiding talents like Kendall Jenner and many others at the beginning of their careers. About six years back, I decided to take things a step further and launched The Coco Rocha Model Camp. It was my way of broadening my reach and sharing the wealth of knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated over the years with as many aspiring models as possible.

At Model Camp, we don’t just focus on posing and runway techniques. Our curriculum covers a wide range of essential topics, including contracts, agencies, branding, social media, accounting and more. I’ve seen firsthand the potential in new talent and the challenges they face, which is why I’m incredibly proud to provide a platform where over 4.000 models have come to learn, grow and flourish.


What can you share with us about your upcoming accolades, both in your own career and for your modeling camp?

Models can’t really spill the beans on what they’re working on next, but CRMC is going stronger than ever as we approach our 7th year. I was in Paris just recently for fashion week and ran into former students every day, all out there doing their thing. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see them putting in the hard work and applying everything they’ve learned in the real world. 

Despite your endless success, you strongly stand by the truth that success doesn’t need to come at the cost of sacrificing one’s core values and individuality. How do you keep making sure you are never sacrificing your values and yourself?

I remember being a young model starting out and being told on numerous occasions that I’d have to compromise core beliefs and morals in order to make it in this industry. For any young model or young woman starting out in business, I think it’s important to know and evaluate who you are and what you stand for. For me personally, success at all costs has never been attractive. My goal in the industry was always to be able to leave it the same person I entered it, just a little older and wiser. I advise any person starting out in life to really rely on their own moral compass. As they say, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.


photographer KOLBY KNIGHT
stylist CHARLIE WARD at See Management
makeup MAGDALENA MAJOR at See Management using AUGUSTINUS BADER skincare & SHISEIDO makeup
hair JOHN RUIDANT at See Management using R+CO
nails NORI at See Management using CHANEL
props ELAINE WINTER at See Management
location @prophausnyc
interview JANA LETONJA