PHOTO BY RYAN MCGINLEY
A name like Coco Young isn't holding back the 20-year-old New York-born, Marseille-raised model from joining the esteemed tradition of artist's muse. Her rangy, doe-eyed look has inspired adoring portraits by connoisseurs of the nude form like classical parodic painter John Currin (who featured her for her in a portrait for the Metropolitan Opera), Richard Kern, and Ryan McGinley (Young was also recently signed by Wilhelmina). In September, she'll appear on the pages of Interview, and for the lookbook for artist Orly Genger's collaboration with jewelry designer Jaclyn Mayer on a new line of knitted rope cuffs and necklaces (sneak-peak below.) Here we talk about art, fashion, and being a link between them.
ANA FINEL HONIGMAN: McGinley, Currin and Kern have very different erotics. Why do you think your look inspires them all?
COCO YOUNG: To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. I don't really find myself erotic-looking at all. When I am naked I think it¹s less because I'm totally present, very comfortable with my body. There is nothing more to be said, there is nothing more to take off, I am there, naked and voila! I think layers are sexy. What I find sexy is the lack of sexy and maybe these artists were able to find the erotic in my lack of eroticism?
HONIGMAN: You're also a painter, aren't you? Has modeling for artists or designers influenced your own art?
YOUNG: When I'm in John Currin's studio (portrait: left), I am totally inspired by the colors, the smell of the paint, the way he uses his brush—but then I get discouraged because his skill at painting is so immense. I am very hard on myself, and I cannot stand criticism. I don't show my work to anyone really. Since I didn't go to art school, I am not used to critiques. I have had to live with my own and it's been difficult. Finding time to pain at this moment in time for me is difficult because I am so busy and I don't have too much space in my apartment. I usually go up to Woodstock where my father lives to work but it's been hard to find enough time to do that. I try to do with what I have and right now what I have is exposure to the fashion world so I have been photographing it. I am working on this series of models waiting before a casting. I have been documenting how girls occupy themselves during the idle time.
HONIGMAN: How does the experience of posing for art photographers differ from working in fashion?
YOUNG: Posing for art photographers is more fun because we don't have to sell anything. But fashion photography looks like art photography more and more and it is becoming harder to make the distinction between those two. Many "art" photographers shoot campaigns and editorials.
HONIGMAN: What advice would you give to aspiring models taking conventional
and regulated routes into the fashion industry?
YOUNG: Being yourself should be your top priority if you are an aspiring model. Do not compromise yourself. Everyone has flaws so use yours to your advantage, do not try to hide them. Asking questions is very important. You should always want to know what's going on. A good model should always bring something to the table artistically—at least with his or her body.
HONIGMAN: Why did you decide to work with Orly Gengerand by Jaclyn Mayer?
YOUNG: I was introduced to them through my really good friend Charlotte Greville, whose taste I trust enormously. I also fell in love with the line. I really admire their capability to blend fashion and art without favoritism. I also admire the way they both work together, each doing their own thing and inspiring each other.