Over the course of her 11-year career, Crista Cober has nabbed campaigns for Topshop, Gap, H&M, Armani Exchange and more, but she ranked getting booked for Balmain’s recent campaign among her favorite modeling moments to date. As one of the stars of the house’s spring ads, the Next-repped model can be seen playing Nintendo and chowing down on burgers and fries with a pretty solid crew: Adriana Lima, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Joan Smalls and Isabeli Fontana. At 29, Cober radiates the kind of cool confidence that comes with being in the business for more than a decade, and thus it’s no surprise the natural beauty held her own alongside Olivier Rousteing’s “army” of supermodels.
The Wellesley, Ontario, native — who can be seen on the current cover of Glamour France — recently bought herself property in Toronto but keeps a place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she frequently finds herself in town for work. She stopped by WWD’s office last week to talk about shooting for Balmain, her singular runway experience and her dreams of becoming a midwife.
WWD: Growing up, had you ever wanted to be a model?
Crista Cober: I didn’t know it was a possibility. I was scouted just after I finished high school; I was 18. I was in a shopping center. The guy who scouted me went to my high school 10 years prior — he was a dancer at Juilliard but always kind of wanted to get into scouting — so he saw my photo in a yearbook and tracked me down. There were certain people back then who would say to me, “You should be a model,” but I didn’t really know what it was about. I had my first job in Toronto, then three weeks later, I came to New York, and within a month, I was in Paris.
WWD: Well, let’s talk about Balmain. That was a pretty major shoot.
C.C.: Everyone there just wanted to have fun and do something cool. The shoot started in the afternoon and went until midnight, which made it feel more like a hangout vibe. A lot of work, energy and detail went into the set. Everyone knew what they were doing. The music was amazing, Mario [Sorrenti] was great. And you don’t need anything other than those clothes. The clothes made it come to life.
WWD: In an interview with WWD, Olivier Rousteing said he wanted to have power women in the campaign.
C.C.: It’s so sweet of him to say that. But Olivier already has the power in his designs. In a sense, he gave us the power by letting us do it. He’s the one giving the power with his clothes.
WWD: Did you actually eat that hamburger? (Or maybe it was a cheeseburger; unclear.)
C.C.: No. At that point, it was midnight, and I’m pretty sure the set guy bought the hamburger at 1 p.m. that day. It was like a cold piece of cardboard. But the set guy was so enthusiastic. At one point, there was a huge plate of spaghetti and all of us had forks, and another table had a huge Thanksgiving spread.
WWD: You’ve been modeling for over a decade. Did you ever think you’d be doing it this long?
C.C.: My first agency in Toronto told me that it’s a great career, a great job, but to be careful not to make it my life. Everyone used to ask me, “What are you gonna do when you stop?” But I always wanted to do other things while modeling…the possibilities were endless. I’ve started and stopped four times. You’re self-employed, and you kind of hold all the cards, so you can stop and restart. I did that a bunch of times.
WWD: What were you doing each time you stopped?
C.C.: I went to South America for eight months; went back to Canada for a bit; moved to Paris a second time. I didn’t really take [modeling] seriously until I came to New York. I came, I needed a visa, and it’s a bit more serious here. Agencies here are more focused on giving you a career as opposed to just giving you something to do every once in a while.
WWD: Do you have other long-term goals?
C.C.: What I still want to do, but 10 years down the road, is [to study] nursing, get a midwife degree and work abroad doing midwifing.
WWD: When in New York, what do you do in your spare time?
C.C.: I love finding small French cafés that have good coffee, skateboarding in Central Park, biking, walking. I like taking the subway to areas that I haven’t been, getting off and exploring. I love hiking upstate.
WWD: Where do you see yourself living ultimately?
C.C.: I just bought some property in Toronto — all of my family is in Canada and I like the vibe of it more. But I like coming to New York for work, so I’ll probably always have a place here. I love South America. I think I’ll always travel.
WWD: Has your family always been supportive of your career?
C.C.: Yeah, though I don’t know if they fully understand it. In Canada, there’s not as much fashion stuff that comes out. My first job, going back 12 years ago, was a Macy’s flier — my family might still think that’s the kind of stuff that I do. But I got my dad an iPad last year for Christmas, so I sent him the Balmain photos.
WWD: When reflecting on your career, do any moments in particular stand out?
C.C.: My favorite moment, funny enough, was when my booker called to let me know about Balmain. I was shooting on a beach in L.A. when she called and she was, like, “Hey, did you check your e-mail? Check it, I’ll stay on the phone.” Which I thought was a bit weird. But it was so nice for her to want to share that moment with me. I was so happy to have the opportunity. Everyone was congratulating me, but I was like, “Wait a minute, guys. I still have to shoot it, and it still has to look good. When it actually comes out, then we can all be okay, this is awesome.”
WWD: Weirdest thing you’ve ever done on a photo shoot?
C.C.: I had someone want me to get on a camel and I didn’t have any clothes on. I was like, “I’m not sitting on a camel naked. You’ve taken it too far” [she laughed]. I also had an albino python around my neck. They’re incredibly strong; the snake wants to go its own way. I’ve also shot with giraffes, elephants — so much weird stuff. And you never know when you show up what you’re going to be doing. You show up and it’s like, “Oh, I’m at a circus.”
WWD: How about runway?
C.C.: In 12 years, I’ve done one show, which is amazing to me.
WWD: Why do you think that is?
C.C.: I was a competitive swimmer in high school. My family is barrel-chested — they’ve been farming for 300 years, they were among the first settlers in Canada — and I’ve always had a strong build with broad shoulders. Probably for the first 10 years, agents would be like, “You have to be smaller.” The size of your hands, your wrists, your bone structure — for shows, all of that is important.
WWD: What show did you end up walking?
C.C.: Anthony Vaccarello [fall 2013], which was amazing. I was shooting for Self Service magazine that day, so I showed up 30 minutes before the show started. They whipped me together, and it was like being in a locker room for a sporting event. All these girls knew exactly what they were doing — they had probably done six shows that day. I was like, “Wait a minute, is it gonna be slippery?” And then it was over within five minutes. I was like, “Oh. That wasn’t bad at all.”