Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coco Rocha: Coco in Motion

Catwalk superstar Coco Rocha has a flair for the dramatic on the runway—and off.Whoever said girls can have either killer looks or a great personality never met Coco Rocha.Not so long ago, Rocha was just your average Irish-dancing, nature-loving Canadian teenager. But after being scouted at a dance competition— an event seemingly so preposterous it provoked uncontrollable mirth in Rocha and her friends at the time—the 20-year-old now dominates modeling’s upper echelons.No wonder. In addition to a striking face that the camera adores, Rocha thrums with energy. She doesn’t walk down a runway. She dances. She doesn’t pose for a picture. She creates characters. Her versatility and carefree individualism have enabled her to cross from the catwalk to fashion editorial to beauty advertising seemingly effortlessly and become a darling of fashion-world ringleaders such as Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, photographer Steven Meisel and designer Jean Paul Gaultier.“I love women with personality, and she’s a perfect example,” says Gaultier, whose runway Rocha can often be found—literally—dancing down. “She can project something special when she’s doing a show—the clothes are given another dimension. She can adapt and change, but at the same time, she always stays Coco.”Bringing her personality to bear on her work has been a conscious decision for Rocha. “There are enough models out there who are gorgeous and good looking, but have nothing to bring,” she says. “They can take good pictures, but after that, when you take the pictures, what do you have to say for yourself?”Rocha herself has a lot to say—and she’s not afraid to say it, as she proved when she spoke at a Council of Fashion Designers of America forum regarding models and weight. “I had been opening the subject more and more in interviews, and Anna Wintour got wind of it and asked me to be part of this,” Rocha says. “Every girl has a story. My speech was my own experiences and what people have told me, and ideas and options that people could work on.” Some of her suggestions included convincing designers to hire larger fit models and provide healthier food backstage.During her speech, Rocha also related being told once that “the look this year is anorexia, and even though we don’t want you to be anorexic, we want you to look it,” a quote that has become almost as famous as that of another Canadian supermodel, Linda Evangelista, who quipped in her heyday that she and her sister supes didn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.

But whereas Evangelista was speaking from ego, Rocha’s motives are anything but. “I’m interested in teaching girls about being aware of their health and portraying a good role model to show them that, even though modeling—or any industry— can be hard, you can definitely strive to it,” she says.Her interest in positively impacting the lives of young women is personal. Rocha’s mother is a flight attendant, and as a child, she spent a lot of time in the company of babysitters and day care centers, she says. “I always appreciated when our big buddies came in and we really looked up to them,” she remembers. “Now I want to be a big buddy.” To that end, Rocha, who now lives in New York City, is involved with the Children’s Aid Society, giving speeches and dance demonstrations for the kids. She’s equally guileless in her approach to work. Despite the time-honored tradition of models beating down a path to Hollywood, Rocha insists she has no master plan to transition from the catwalk to the red carpet. “I don’t plan my future very far off. I don’t plan tomorrow, because I don’t even know what today holds,” she says. “Acting? We’ll see. Modeling is taking up my plate right now, so we’ll see if there’s room for dessert.”Rocha speaks in a clipped tone punctuated with frequent giggles. When asked to describe her personality, she knits her brow. “I don’t know,” she trills, then pauses before continuing. “I like to have fun. There’s no point in working if you don’t like it.”Her favorite kind of shoot or fashion show is one that lets Coco be Coco. “I like shows that have attitude, that ask us to give it our all. Really, all we do is walk, so why not let us do something unique?” she says. Quotidian shoots are equally as boring. “Don’t book me if you want plain Jane. I seem to overpose sometimes, which can be a little bad,” she laughs, “but that’s just the nature of the game.”Thus far, she’s appeared in ad campaigns for Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Phi, Nicole Farhi and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, for whom she serves as the face. A stellar roster like that has enabled Rocha to scale back on her show schedule for fashion week. Though in season’s past she’s done as many as 36 shows in New York alone, she did about 14 this go-around, two in Milan (Dolce & Gabbana and Versace) and four in Paris, including Chanel and Gaultier. “I don’t need to overdo it,” she shrugs. “I like to work with the [designers] who I have a good relationship with. You believe in what they’re doing and they respect having you.”At heart, Rocha remains unaffected by her glam environs. A tomboy at heart, she jumps at the opportunity to hike, bike or climb whenever she has a couple of days off. A teetotaler, her favorite way to unwind is with a swirl of frozen yogurt, her maltipoo, Peek-a-Boo, tucked in her lap. Gaultier credits her dance background with enabling Rocha to keep her feet planted on terra firma. “She’s a dancer and she has the dancer’s discipline,” he says. “Dancers are always ready to push themselves to the limit. Nothing is too complicated for Coco, and she’s always ready to try something special.”

Saturday, November 8, 2008

About a girl

About Coco

From a young age she was a dancer. Irish dancing was her specialty. She’d been to countless practices and competitions that it was all very routine. But one day, her presence at a competition would change her life forever. She was fourteen and with her regular troupe of dancers at yet another Irish dance competition. It was there that a man approached her; he introduced himself as Charles Stuart. He asked her if she would consider modeling for him. She didn’t quite know what to make of it; she had no original intentions of becoming a model. When she found out that he was indeed a legitimate agent with a real modeling agency, she decided to go for it. At age fifteen, her modeling career began.

From that point, she began travelling around the world as a model. She spent her summer in New York, followed by a couple-month stint in Taipei. She’s been featured in over seventy magazines, many in Asia and Europe, and even spent a few months with her mother in Singapore. But all of this exposure was nothing compared to the uproar she would cause back home.

Models are generally represented by various agencies. Coco’s “mother agency” is Charles Stuart Agency in Vancouver; this is the agency responsible for discovering her. In Toronto, L.A. and New York, she is part of a long list of famous faces at Elite Model Management. In Milan she is represented by Why Not Model Agency and in Paris by Marilyn Model Management.
In February of 2006 Coco joined Elite NY and they wanted her in New York immediately. So, she jumped on a plane with the intention of spending four to six weeks modeling for them in New York. It was soon made public knowledge that Coco would be taking part in Olympus Fashion Week, also known as New York Fashion Week.

But before it even started, Coco met someone extraordinary, Steven Meisel. Meisel is one of the world’s hottest photographers who does a lot of work for Vogue magazine. He fell in love with her and brought her out to Los Angeles for a photo shoot with the likes of Gemma Ward and Amanda Moore. When asked of her thoughts on the famed photographer she said, “It’s just such an awesome thing to be working for the most powerful man in fashion and the best fashion photographer in the world.”

At only seventeen years old, she is still under exclusive contract to him. The shoot, Organized Robots, can be seen in the March issue of Italian Vogue. Mention the name “Gemma Ward” to most girls and you’ll get a quick, positive reaction. She has been on the cover of most magazines and was chosen as the youngest “It Girl” model last year. “It was crazy,” said Coco, speaking of being on the same set as Ward. “Believe it or not, I didn’t know I was working with her until the middle of the shoot when I realized it was truly her.” Coco said she was “extremely excited” to be on the Italian Vogue set, and has hinted at having a possible cover of the magazine in the near future!

Coco flew back to New York after her shoot with Meisel to take part in its fashion week. There she was able to model in five shows, the biggest ones being Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs (who is “just great”). Around the time of these shows, the 5’9” beauty started to catch the attention of those in and out of the fashion industry, and her name and picture began to pop up on fashion forums across the web. At the end of the fashion extravaganza,, a leading model source on the web, chose Coco Rocha as "the newcomer most likely to return next season as girl most wanted." They have also named her “Girl of the Season.” Quickly following, she was added to the list of Canada’s Top Models on

Following her runway rampage in New York City, Coco jetted off to Milan instead of returning to her regular life as a grade 12 student. She got there just in time to wow the crowds all over again. What was different this time was the shows she was modeling for… the designers only got bigger. This time she graced the catwalk for Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Versace.

But it didn’t stop there. Following Milan Fashion Week, she followed many other models over to Paris for its annual fashion week. There she took part in eight shows: Balenciaga, Chanel, Paco Rabanne, Miu Miu, Stella McCartney, Christian Lacroix, Emanuel Ungaro and Louis Vuitton. It was there in Paris that Coco’s impression on the fashion industry began to show. The Louis Vuitton show was the last of the season and she was chosen by designer Marc Jacobs to be the one to open the show, which is a significant step in a model’s career. But on top of that, he had her close the show as well.

Before returning home, Coco shot a campaign for Dolce & Gabbana and in April 2006, she spent a few days in Paris, shooting an ad campaign for Balenciaga. And just when you’d think things couldn’t get any better, Coco did a shoot with Meisel that landed her right on the cover of the April issue of Italian Vogue. Now that she is becoming more and more recognized, she attends fewer castings. “It’s a lot of travelling. A lot of time spent in the air, more time for homework.”
With a surprise career ready to skyrocket, it is understandable that Coco Rocha has moved from Vancouver to New York City. “This is where fashion is,” she explained. “I’ll go meet clients and designers and stylists. I’ll get my name out there.” She lives in an apartment in the heart of Manhattan with another model. But don’t expect this model to be full of herself. She came back to school for a day before spring break to help her friends put together the school’s grad fashion show. She even stayed for her last block physical education class. Not bad for a beauty queen. “I hope modeling hasn’t changed me in the sense that I think more of myself, or better of myself,” she said. “But I am more confident with who I am and what I can do with my life.”

Coco acquired her high school diploma by correspondence. She says that she will continue to model until it is no longer an option for her. Just one short year ago, in 2005, Coco was asked of her future plans and she said, “To continue school and to keep up with modeling. Who knows, I might make this a career.” Even she did not foresee her quick catapult to the centre of the industry. As for not going the traditional route to university she said, “If that is the route you want to take, go for it, but it’s not the only one. I decided to take the road less travelled and it’s working for me. You have to be true to yourself.” She laughs at the corny idea of saying ‘you can achieve anything,’ but she does believe it. She is living proof that dreams really do come true.