Meet the New Girl: Coco Young Is Ryan McGinley’s Protégé

Coco Young (Wilhelmina).

If you run in that circle, you already know Coco Young is the toast of the art world. The New York–born, Marseille-raised beauty got her big break when photographer Ryan McGinley personally requested to work with her on several personal and professional fashion projects in 2008. A year later, she starred in KT Auleta's short film Run Around, sat for painter John Currin (her portrait was later featured at the Metropolitan Opera Gallery), and was shot by both Dana Lauren Goldstein and Richard Kern. The precocious 20-year-old accomplished all this on her own merit. No major agency, no agent, nothing. But, now that the Eric Rohmer fanatic has signed with Wilhelmina, she's crossing over to fashion in a big way (like walking in Marc Jacobs's fall 2010 show and shooting up a storm for some very directional magazines). We’d hate to call Coco an "It" girl, but the truth is she’s having a moment and it’s hard not to notice.

You weren't signed with a modeling agency when you booked the Marc Jacobs fall 2010 show. How did that happen?
All very quickly and unexpectedly. Michelle Lee, superstar casting director at KCD, was casting for the show. She gave me a call and asked [me] to come by the Marc Jacobs offices. They made me try on an outfit and sent me upstairs to meet Marc. He made me walk several times in front of him and before I knew it, I was walking his show.

You've done some pretty legit modeling for John Currin, Richard Kern, and Ryan McGinley, among others. What's the one experience that really sticks out?
Watching John paint is one of my favorite things to do. I like listening to his stories as well; he has so many. It takes me to this other world — a world of glamour and dreams that certain established older artists are a part of. Richard is very professional and efficient. I don't know him very well, but I love his work. And shooting with Ryan is super fun. He can get me to do crazy things without even blinking an eye. During the road trip I went on with him in the summer of 2008, he made me lay naked on an iced pond inside a cave. Then he made me do ballet moves without my shoes on. It was one of the most physically painful moments of my life, but at the same time it was very beautiful to be one with nature, to surpass myself and to make a sacrifice for the sake of photography.

What goes through your head when you get dressed in the morning?
I like sleeping as much as possible, so that leaves me with less time to get ready. I wake up and throw something on. I do, however, spend time finding items I know I will be able to throw on without too much thought. And I go through phases when I wear the same thing over and over again. Right now, I'm really into this vintage Bauhaus T-shirt that I inherited from an ex-boyfriend. I like when things are worn out and have a soul, a history. I also have a big crush on my American flag Converse that I found at a thrift store in Paris.

If you weren't modeling, what would you be doing?
I don't think not modeling would really change my life. Yes, I would have to make money differently, but in terms of what I would be doing with my time, it would pretty much be the same. I would still be painting and taking pictures and writing letters and postcards and novellas and going to galleries and museums and reading in the park and walking around New York and riding my bike and daydreaming and going to White Slab bar with my lovely friends and chatting on the telephone and watching films and eating good food.

We hear you're a huge film geek. What should we put in our Netflix queue?
I guess you could call me that; I spent a summer working at a video store. Belle de Jour, directed by Luis Buñuel in 1967, is definitely one of my top choices. It illustrates perfectly the difficulties of being a woman and the escapism that we sometimes need. Catherine Deneuve, the summum of French class and beauty, plays a housewife who tries to find her identity within her bourgeois lifestyle. Eric Rohmer's La Collectionneuse was also made in 1967 — a great year! — and is the fourth film in his "Six Moral Tales" series. Visually mind-blowing, it takes place in a house in the south of France, where three strangers spend a summer together. There's a young girl who collects lovers, a gallerist who collects pieces of art, and his friend. A deep analysis and psychological development of the characters tie into the undisclosed sexual tension. [And lastly] Teorema by Pier Paolo Pasolini; it was directed in 1968 and was one of the first "serious films" that I saw as a child. It stars Terrence Stamp and is about a bourgeois family in Milan who is visited by a strange, seductive cousin. The formulaic structure and beauty of this film have always amazed me.

See more pics of Coco Young on and off the runway on her model profile page. Or browse other rising stars in our ever-growing Model Manual.