Coco Rocha is putting her modeling clout to work.
Known for standing up for models’ rights, 27-year-old Rocha has teamed with industry veterans Damon Rutland and Roman Young, along with her husband and longtime collaborator James Conran, in Nomad Mgmt, a global modeling agency.
Rocha and Conran have taken a management and ownership stake in Nomad, which was founded in 2001 by Rutland, who along with Young maintain a majority stake. Nomad will represent Rocha for modeling. Previously, she was represented by IMG. WME/IMG will continue to represent Rocha in her entertainment deals.
Young actually discovered Rocha at a models’ convention in Edmonton, Canada, when she was 14, and they have worked together for many years.
With the expansion and addition of new owners and managers, Nomad, which had been a model management firm, becomes a full-fledged global booking agency. In addition to Rocha, Nomad represents 55-60 models, including Soo Joo Park, Sung Hee Kim, Matthew Hitt and Sung Jin Park.
Rocha will serve as brand director for the agency and will be personally available to each client as a mentor and for career guidance, a role she has unofficially assumed for many models for years.
“Having worked with many of the world’s top modeling agencies for the last decade, I’ve seen what works and doesn’t work in managing a model’s career. In the past I’ve openly appealed to industry leaders for more ethical treatment of underage models, transparent accounting practices and I’ve spoken out regarding pressures and unhealthy expectations too often projected on models working today,” said Rocha. She has personally mentored models one-on-one and in group situations while she’s been at agencies.
Rutland, managing director, said that Rocha’s success in the modeling world far exceeds his own background as a model. “To bring that perspective over the last 14 to 15 years is invaluable and it complements exactly where we want to go,” he said.
Young, creative director, also noted that Rocha not only brings her experience to the table, but through their long friendship, there were always things they didn’t like and thought could be done better. “The market has changed since the Nineties. The market is flooded with a lot of models. It’s sadly become a volume business now, and agencies keep growing and growing and it’s about margins and profits. It’s less personal. We were hoping to do something together to find a way to change that. There’s an old guard in modeling. We wanted to apply new thinking,” he said.
In her new role, Rocha will work with models to help them develop strategies for their careers. “It’s important that they have a personal relationship with their managers,” she said. “People who rooted for me and were impactful in my career knew everything about me. They knew my goals, my likes, my dislikes, what I wanted out of my career. That worked so well for me and that’s what our girls need.”
As an advocate for models’ rights, she was instrumental in raising awareness for underage models, which, for decades, had gone unnoticed by law makers and the public. She helped mobilize supporters and spoke directly with congressmen, helping them draft new legislation which was passed in 2013. That law doesn’t say that underage models can’t work, but if they’re under 16, they’re paid correctly, they’re chaperoned on set, have food available and that 15 percent of their money goes into a savings account, she said. “It’s not about a girl can’t be young. They just have to have the right laws enforced,” said Rocha.
What Rocha loves about modeling right now is there are many different body types. “Most agencies have a variety of girls, and we’ll have a variety of girls. Nowadays we have to break the molds to what it means to be a model in 2016,” she said. “If you’re a skinny little girl, it doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder.”
Agencies are pushing girls to lose weight, but she said you wouldn’t really do that to someone you care about. “You really have to judge each girl personally. I’m excited to be the big sister to these girls. If they have any questions, they’ll hopefully come to me and I’ll give them the best answers and best guidance I possibly can,” she said.
She also plans to get involved in scouting, which has changed dramatically since she was discovered.
“There are so many means and ways to approach girls. When I started, pretty much a scout had to find you on the street. Nowadays, it’s Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Weibo in China, there are so many ways to do it. Our top models right now came from being famous on TV. The next generation of girls will come from being famous on the Internet,” she said. “I’m always looking for girls who treat this as a business, not just a fun lifestyle. A sneaky way of doing that is check their social media. How do they come across and present themselves?”
Rocha said Nomad will offer sessions on healthy eating and keeping oneself fit. “We’re going to have these summits, even with accountants. I told my personal accountant that I’d love for him to sit down and explain [to the models] the books and how they keep them, and taxes, and what questions you should ask. As boring as the subject could be, it’s so important to learn early on in your career. In the first few years, I knew nothing about my books. I wish someone had taken me aside and taught me. The same goes to styling and how to present yourself to a new client, working on your attitude, if a girl has issues with eating, you have to take care of them. You have to help them and guide them.”
As for her take on Photoshopping (she previously lashed out at Elle Brazil for manipulating a cover to make it appear she was nearly nude), she said, “Photoshop is an art. There’s a fine line that you shouldn’t cross.” She said she thinks it’s OK to remove pimples or make it look like a model didn’t just get off a plane, but some people take it to an extreme.
Asked if she still sees herself doing as much modeling now that she’s got a management role, she didn’t hesitate. “For sure. Working alongside the talent, there’s no reason, why not. It’s a great way to keep your eyes open and your ears open. I love what I do. I love modeling, and I want other girls to enjoy the experience,” she said. “I won’t necessarily be sitting at the desk and booking jobs. I’m there to assist in any possible way and giving a model’s perspective to all this.”
And if that’s not enough, she and her husband also have a “sport chic” line called Co + Co. Spring was the first collection. “We are already designing for next spring,” she said.