interview. Odyssia Houstis
photography. Jvdas Berra
issue 1 – in love with Switzerland
I think that the power of a personal story is its ability to connect us on a very human level. Can you share a memorable story from your amazing career?
It was my first show with Anna Sui, and my first season of doing big shows. I was on the runway and the model in front of me was just turning around from the pit back towards me, and she was walking hard! She had the best walk, and I was thinking, wow, harder Coco! I started using my biggest attitude and walked as hard as I could. Backstage this model came up to me….At the time I had no idea who she was, and she said something like “That was a really good walk” and walked away. My agent ran towards me and asked “What did she say?”….¨Do you know who that is?” “Oh Coco, that’s Naomi Campbell.” I was only 17, it was my second runway show, and I received this huge compliment from the master herself.
Did you have a clear vision that this is what you wanted to do?
When I started I thought modeling would just be a summer fling. My mom came to New York with me. It didn’t really work out, I did the castings and test shoots. I left thinking this is as far as it would go. But an opportunity to work in Asia appeared, so, I decided to take it. I did a lot of catalog work. I stayed there for a few months working day jobs and evening jobs, it was hard work. I was still in high school.I had to Fed-Ex my school work back and forth.
How did the idea of the academy come to you?
I had already been teaching runway classes at several agencies. Then I started to get requests to teach posing, but they also asked me to sit down and advise them on a personal, and professional level. So, the idea of creating an educational space was brewing, but we didn’t think anyone would come if we created it. We, my husband James and I, then decided to take a chance and create our own agency. We bought an estate in the forest upstate in New York and we created a camp, thinking we would do a few summer classes. We have completed 106 camps with over 3500 models.
Do you have many male models come to your camps?
We definitely do, and thanks to social media we are starting to see that more and more male models are coming to our camps.
Is there one particular person who really helped you to break into the industry?
Steven Meisel is the one who gave me a chance when no one else was looking in my direction. He gave me the sense of how I was deserving of respect and rights. He created a family atmosphere while he trained his models. That helped me more than he will ever know. For sure James is a huge reason why my career is where it is today, we are an amazing team, making this a family business has made everything better.
Mom to mom, how do you balance it all?
It’s a little easier having the academy because we have more structure on a daily basis, and can plan quality family time. At the same time during the camps is when I see my children the least because we are booked 3-4 days at a time.
When we travel for shoots we take the children with us which is fantastic. I love to travel with my family…I get to do the job and see the world with my husband, and children.
How do you feel the modeling industry has changed, what are the biggest challenges that models face now that you may have not faced before?
Two things have not changed: we are all getting jobs based on our looks, and the rate of rejection is higher than in most jobs, quite brutal in fact. What’s new is that they need to be social media savvy…need to be the personality behind the model. Be skilled at posting video content. Expectations are pretty high.
Do you feel the pressure of social media even though it is so imperative for your business?
We try to make it fun, but there is definitely pressure to make sure that there is always new content because if you don’t put it out there, the world thinks you are not working.
What is the ultimate vision for the academy?
106 camps is a huge achievement, and we are so grateful for every model who has passed through our camps. We are currently discussing how to evolve, as we have the camp in New York and we have online camps as well. We have figured out the structure that works the best for the models, now we just have to think about the next step, and build on what we have.
photography. Jvdas Berra
fashion. Giorgio Branduardi
model. Coco Rocha @ The Lions
hair. Ryuta Sayama
make up. Maria Ortega @ The South James Agency
using Kevyn Aucoin Beauty
set designer. Colin Phelan
light designer. Matt Genovese
fashion assistant. Rebecca Lai
make up assistant. Iona Moura
set assistants. Nick Kozmin, Joseph Waggoner + Tahj Snow
backdrops. Schmidli Backdrops
location. Pier59 Studios
© Schön! Switzerland. All rights reserved.