Coco Rocha Reveals What It Was Really Like Mentoring Kendall And Kylie Jenner - Exclusive Interview

As one of the hottest names in the modeling industry, it's only fitting that Coco Rocha partnered with Frank's RedHot for their inaugural hand modeling contest. The unique three-week competition was held on TikTok to find the first official hand of the popular hot sauce label, and the international supermodel has announced the lucky winner on her TikTok page, where she has over 1 million followers.

In an exclusive interview, Nicki Swift sat down over Zoom with the lovely and talented mom of three — who is considered "the world's first digital supermodel" — and she opened up about this new and entertaining project, her fascinating career, and her tightknit family. Rocha also took us behind the scenes of the life of a model, dishing on everything from a memorable moment on the runway, the best and worst parts of her job, and working with then-up-and-coming starlets Kendall and Kylie Jenner. 

A native of Canada, Rocha was first discovered at a dance competition when she was 14 (via BuzzFeed). Soon after, she was traveling the globe and building up her impressive resume, which includes founding a modeling camp and co-penning the "Study of Pose" book. As for the advice she would give to aspiring models, Coco Rocha even recited a heartfelt quote to us that she lives by — but more on all that and more below.

@franksredhot and @cocorocha posted content and calls for submissions throughout the hand modeling contest. Submissions can be viewed in the #frankssweepstakes hashtag, and the winner was announced on Coco Rocha's TikTok on October 17, 2021.

When it comes to snacking, Coco Rocha went from a sweet to salty person

­­Can you explain the hand modeling contest and what you're looking for in the winner?

First of all, I just thought it was such an awesome brand and a partnership to look for the next hand model for Frank's RedHot. So I knew I wanted it to be a bit silly, but also do the job. And it's been fun to watch all of these TikTok videos of people's versions of what would sell. It's been fun to go through the feed, finding all the ones I really like. I like humor in it. That's what TikTok is about. There's humor, but also we can learn things, but this is definitely to have fun with it. So I think a lot of people did the task. They got it right.

That was my next question. Tell us, if you can, some of the submissions you got and what stood out as far as capturing the audience.

I take my job seriously, but I also know that there's fun to it. There's elements of fun, and I think that's what I was looking for, is the most "Zoolander"-esque-looking submission, where we can just have a laugh at what the job is. So yeah, there [were] definitely people that found the humor in it. I had some where [they were] really putting so much time into it. One was taking Adele's song, where it's like, "[Never mind, I'll] find someone like you," and then [it] turned to an audience of Frank's RedHots on tiny chairs, even the little packages.

Oh, that's so cute.

It was amazing as the — I guess it was a guy — had pants on his hands and [was] walking the stage — [it was] really thought-out. Clearly, this person put hours into this submission. So stuff like that, I just think people are so unique in coming up with ideas, and that's the great thing of TikTok. You really have to come up with your own special ideas for them to shine.

Speaking about Frank's RedHot, first of all, do you eat Buffalo wings? And if you do, do you use the sauce?

Yes, I do use the sauce. My house is full. After we did our shoot, it kept coming into my house, and I was gifting my friends, being like, "I have so much. Have more." But yes, I am a ... salty kind of [person], that's my thing. I used to be a candy person. I used to be that, "Give me cake," and all of it, but now it's very much salty and spicy. So yes, definitely, my favorite thing, even if we weren't discussing this, I love chicken dip, where it's just creamy and spicy and salty all together. That's my jam. Give me a lime chip with it, and you're my new best friend.

These are the best and worst parts of Coco Rocha's job

Tell us a memorable or funny story from your career on the runway.

Oh, well, I would say there's been many. I used to ... I say "used to" because Jean Paul Gaultier just retired before COVID. It's like he knew. This designer, he had me do so many special and creative concepts on his runways. In one, we had to do this pretend cat fight. Me and this other model had to pretend like we were fighting on the runway. But the funny part was that no one was in on it. So the entire [group of] people following us and watching us, the audience, started to panic thinking two models just decided to have a fight on the runway. So there were people rising from their seat, trying to help us, until they realized we threw ourselves into a mud puddle in the middle of the runway. And then they were like, "Oh, this is planned." 

I love theater, and I think theater and runway, that's what it was meant to be. So there [have] been many moments like that, but that one, I think, was one of those moments where we were like, "Wow, we really tricked them."

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

Well, I would say, early on in my career — and I would say a lot of models will say [this] — is that it is very lonely. People might think that models, wow, you get to live these crazy lives where you get to travel the world, meet so many people, and have many fantastic friends. But [at] the end of the day, you're arriving on a new set. All these people know each other. Sometimes there's a language barrier, and then you leave and you do it again and again and again, and you don't see family, you don't see friends, and you just constantly are on the move. I do remember feeling very low, very sad, at the beginning of my career, where funny enough, that's where you're doing your best, technically. You're working with the best, so that, I would say most models, if you talk to them, it is that being lonely and being ... you feel like you're on your own with all these feelings and kind of drained.

Fast forward to now, the best is that I get to have an amazing family, where I get to travel with them and work with them. My husband [artist James Conran] and I work together 24/7, and my kids get to travel with us. My three babies get to travel with us for every opportunity that I possibly can bring them. So I think it's funny how the thing that was the worst, I made sure I changed that in my life, and it is the best. I get to also work with the best of the best in this industry, learn from them, cultivate relationships with them, observe them. I think that's been fantastic. It's almost like my mini-school of fashion that I've had all these years.

Coco Rocha is 'proud' of what Kendall and Kylie Jenner have achieved

Do you think your children will one day follow in your professional footsteps?

I always wonder, because I think of so many people where their children were curious to what they were doing at a young age, but then later on it was like, "Absolutely not." Now, I don't know if they've been in it their whole lives, that it just didn't seem as interesting. But then there are some people where I think, "Wow." ... Cindy Crawford's daughter [Kaia Gerber], where she does such a good job, and she's amazing at it on her own. She doesn't have to be in the shadows of her mom. So I think there's that hard thing for most children that their parents are successful doing something and that, if I do it, will I always have to be compared to my parents?

You mentored Kendall and Kylie Jenner on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." What was that experience like for you?

Yes, so I do this thing called Coco Rocha Model Camp, and years before it was established, I used to go into agencies and just work with new up-and-coming models. And there [were] these new and up-and-coming models, Kendall and Kylie, and we did a little class of pose and runway. And I remember Kendall very much wanting to model. And Kylie was kind of like, "Modeling, acting, maybe do some other things, this Lip Kit." Kendall, really, this was the focus she wanted. And I remember thinking, if she continues with this drive, I believe she'll have it, because I remember early on people just saying, "No, no, I don't think a Kardashian or a Jenner should be given this opportunity." 

So for anyone that has said a girl like Kendall or Kylie, it was given to them, I remember thinking they'll have to work so hard for this to prove that they want it and deserve it — and so, good on them. I'm so proud of them, that they've achieved what they've achieved. They deserve it. I know they're hardworking people, and I'm proud of them for it.

This is Coco Rocha's advice to aspiring models

What is your advice for young aspiring models?

There's so much. In model camp, there's a class of what I discussed, how you should be treating people, and how people should treat you. And that's in basic life. I truly believe in that. But a quote I live by is, "It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice." I think a lot of models come into this industry feeling like, "I'm going to be above all and people will look at me and think that I am the one and only," and somehow their mannerisms and how they treat people change from how their parents taught them. And it's scary, to see someone that was such a sweetheart to evolve into something so different. 

But a reminder, if we could just remember that it's not just us, the model, that creates this image or has this career: There are people behind the company, if you want to call the model the company, and there are so many people [who are] part of creating these images. So, if we could just remind ourselves, if we're as humble, that everyone in the room is equal, we'll then have a better career, I truly believe.

That's a great answer. So, you're considered "the world's first digital supermodel." What does that mean to you?

Well, I know why I was dubbed that. When I started modeling, there was no such thing as social media. And that sounds like I'm talking about some foreign, long-ago time, but it's true that just 20 years ago, no such thing. So a model like myself had no way of having their opinion thrown out to the world. If I wanted to say something, it was not gonna be as easy as click and here's a few things, type, enter. Now, it is.

So when this social media started to appear, I remember at the time my boyfriend — now husband — was like, "You should just get on this and write things, and post silly things, and also important things." And one day I needed to write something very important, and I remember going, "This is powerful." The fact that I finally have this voice that I knew I always had, I just was never able to project, was fantastic to me.

So again, at model camp, how many times I've told models, "Don't be lazy. Use this. This is such a tool that is so powerful." For example, we could be as fun and silly as Frank's RedHot finding the new hand model — which is genius, I think — to then, maybe I need to explain something on TikTok about how women in fashion or someone in fashion is being treated. I mean, there's such a spectrum there, and I keep using it. Since the day that social media, for me, opened up, I thought, "This will be the platform, and this is a place that I will continue to use until they say, 'Hey, it's done. We're never to use it again.'"

@franksredhot and @cocorocha posted content and calls for submissions throughout the hand modeling contest. Submissions can be viewed in the #frankssweepstakes hashtag, and the winner was announced on Coco Rocha's TikTok on October 17, 2021.