Photograph by Lauren Desberg
We caught up with the famous face to find out more.
Famed Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha is coming home this summer for something very close to her heart – beginning in April, Rocha is bringing The Coco Rocha Model Camp to Canada for the very first time.
Having hosted 30 in New York already, the model is heading to the North to inspire the next generation of talent in her home country. Toronto is the first stop on the tour (April 16-18), followed by Montreal (May 7-9), Calgary (August 6-8) and Vancouver (August 27-29). There are only 35 spots available at each camp, and each application is reviewed by Rocha herself.
Naturally, we wanted to know more so we caught up with Coco to find out what the camp entails, the kinds of applicants she’s looking for and what she’s most looking forward to about coming home for the summer.
Photograph courtesy of Matthew Tyler Priestley
Tell us a little bit about why you decided to start The Coco Rocha Model Camp Canada?
I’ve been running the camp for a year and a half out of a big boarding school I bought in upstate New York. We’ve had 500 models come through, many of them Canadians – but I knew there were many models across Canada who couldn’t make the long trip to New York. Doing the camps in four Canadian cities is my way of bringing the experience, which has been so life changing to so many models, directly to them. Canada will always be my home, and I want to continue to support the next generation of talent coming out of Canada. The idea for model camp itself came around about eight years ago when I started privately mentoring models on the side. Sometimes agencies would call me to do one-on-one posing lessons with their new talent – I even did that with Kylie and Kendall Jenner back when they were young. Being a big sister was a something I really enjoyed and eventually I realized that I wanted to do this on my own, with my own curriculum over a series of days.
What will The Coco Rocha Model Camp Canada program entail?
We go over everything I feel a model needs in order to thrive in today’s industry. I have my own unique theories and methods for teaching pose and runway which have been honed in over the years and I’m very good at helping models break out of their own comfort zones and push themselves further. Beyond what a model does in front of the camera we also spend a lot of time discussing modelling from a business standpoint, behind the scenes. Topics like how to deal with agencies, contracts, branding and social media are really crucial to understand if a model is going to have a long and healthy career. By the end of the camp I feel like I’ve given the models all the tools they need to move forward. We work with new models who are just starting out, and models who have been in the industry for a few years but feel like they have hit a wall and need a boost to get to the next level.
What are you looking for in a successful entrant?
I’m not looking for one thing physically as I want the camps to be as diverse as possible in terms of age, background, body type and skin colour. I really believe that you learn the most from people who are different to you. What I am looking for is models who are serious about perfecting their craft, professional and willing to work hard.
Why is it important to you to educate the next generation of models?
Looking out for younger people has always been important to me. I wish I had someone doing the same for me when I was starting but to be honest, much of what I learned was through trial and error. In 2013 I helped work with congress in New York to draft legislation that would finally protect underage models working in New York. Before that it was like the wild west – a 15 year old model could work 20 hours a day with no food, no pay and no chaperone. I know that there are great things about this industry and there are dark things that can and should be avoided. My goal has always been to protect and educate the younger generation so they can enjoy their career, have a wonderful, rewarding and creative time doing what they love, but avoid the more sinister corners of this career choice.
Who was your mentor as you were coming up in the industry?
I didn’t really have one mentor that took me under their wing to be honest. I often wish I did. I looked up to models like Cindy Crawford who had successfully branded herself as more than just a pretty face, but it was years before she became a personal friend. Iman was also huge inspiration for me in the way she defied expectations as a model and forged her own path. I’m so lucky that these women are now my friends but as a young model, I really had to navigate this world for the most part without an older generation of models advising me. That’s part of the reason why doing this for younger models is so special because I know how much it means to them and it’s something that otherwise just does not exist.
What are the biggest issues still facing new models today?
There are so many things! I feel like selfie culture has left most girls feeling they only look beautiful from one angle, doing one pose. Filtering and over retouching has demolished many girls’ self esteem. I try to break those ideas in my camp. The goal of being famous at all costs has made young people far too homogeneous and uninteresting on social media, most models have it all backwards.
On a bigger level I don’t feel the #MeToo movement has adequately changed things in fashion just yet. I think there was a moment where it was a buzz word, but unfortunately too many predators continue to exist. I don’t feel models are adequately prepared to face difficult situations, or to know their own rights, and that’s why I spend so much time trying to prepare them to stand on their own two feet. I think social media continues to be an amazing tool and platform for models to have a voice in fashion but on the other hand, I do feel like we have reached the apex of booking girls based on their follower count. I’d like to see that change because in many ways it creates an impossibly high bar of entry for up and coming models these days. As a unknown child of a working flight attendant mom I definitely wonder if I could have “made it” as a model in today’s climate.
In addition to the camp, what are you most looking forward to about travelling around Canada?
Seeing my friends and family! I have people in each city who I haven’t seen in years so it’s going to be a big reunion for me!
The old saying goes that you can take the girl out of Canada, but you can’t take Canada out of the girl – what’s one Canadian thing that has stayed with you as you’ve lived away from home?
I still apologize for everything. I don’t realize I do it until I bump into another Canadian and we are both saying “sorry” back and forth.
Feeling inspired? Apply here.