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Meet the New Girl: Cora Emmanuel Thought Modeling Was ‘Stupid’

Martinique has been a hotbed for modeling talent lately: First came Sigrid Agren, then Melodie Monrose, and now Cora Emmanuel. Twenty-year-old Emmanuel came off a successful spring 2012 season, modeling for Alexander Wang, Michael Kors, and Tommy Hilfiger in New York. But her biggest coup was being selected by casting director John Pfeiffer for the opening and closing looks in Bottega Veneta's spring collection. Most recently, Emmanuel was invited to Anna Wintour's house to model for Fenton Fallon's collection for the CFDA. We met with the multilingual teen to hear about how her mom convinced her to enter a modeling contest just after a piano lesson.

Tell us a bit about your childhood.
I did a lot of bad stuff. I definitely was not a quiet child. Honestly, I was kind of annoying. I have one older sister and a younger half-brother. My father was an architect, but now he’s teaching architecture. Before modeling, I wanted to become an architect because my father inspired me. My mother is a history and geography teacher.

How were you discovered?
I was really, really tall; nobody was taller than me, and I was really skinny and very shy because I was just really different. I was not comfortable in my own skin. My mother heard of this modeling contest, but I didn’t want to do it at first.

Why?
I thought modeling was all about showing yourself and that just wasn’t for me. I thought it was really stupid, but my mother forced me to do it. I remember I was coming out of my piano lesson with my normal clothes and hair; I didn’t dress up at all and I just went. They ended up taking me for the contest in France and later, for the international contest. After that, I finished my high school diploma and started modeling.

Before your breakthrough this season, I remember seeing you on a few of the smaller spring 2011 and fall 2011 runways. What was different this season?
It just wasn’t my time yet. I learned so much about modeling since last year; how to walk, how to act in castings, and so on. And I think that helped me this season. It was a growing process for me.

What was your favorite show from the spring 2012 season?
Without a doubt, Alexander Wang. I was put on semi-exclusive for them, which means I couldn’t walk for any shows in New York Fashion Week before his show. I saw all these big models around me and I was like, “Oh, I’m a part of it!” I thought to myself, “This is maybe the start of something.”

And then you opened and closed Bottega Veneta in Milan.
That was another highlight for me, as it was my first time ever opening a show. I remember I found out I was opening because at the fitting I saw my modeling comp card as the first time in the lineup. I was so happy, but then I put a lot of pressure on myself because I had the first look, you really have to show the energy of the collection. The closing dress was really long and beautiful, but I was so afraid I was going to step on it and trip.

Did you get any advice from fellow models before you walked?
One of my friends, Melodie Monrose, was doing the show with me and she kept telling me, “You’re going to do well, don’t worry!” Joan Smalls saw I was nervous so she gave me nice words before the show started, too.

What are your family's thoughts on your success in modeling?
They are all really supportive. My mother got scared when I got selected at the contest. She was like, "I only told you to do that because you were shy, but now that you were selected, hmm ... I don't like this." But she's happy for me. She Googles my name every day. My sister was actually more into fashion than I was, because I was kind of boyish, so she pushed me to do well, too. My dad is like any protective, loving father, telling me to be careful. But he's happy.

What’s your diet and fitness routine like?
I eat basically everything, which is bad, I guess. But I try to eat fish and vegetables, and more lean proteins. But sometimes I can eat pizza because who doesn’t love pizza?! I do go to the gym. I do a lot of Bikram yoga in the winter.

What scares you?
Cockroaches. [Laughs.] No. Loneliness, maybe?

Guilty pleasure?
Ice cream.

Do you have any beauty secrets?
No, I'm just myself.

Are you dating anyone?
I have my first boyfriend and I’m really happy. But, the thing is, I don't think your happiness should depend on someone.

Model Profile: Cora Emmanuel

Explore other rising stars (plus all the big names) in our extensive Model Manual, featuring runway pics, glamorous editorials, model bios, career timelines, and more.

Photo: Courtesy of Ford Models

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