Technically speaking, Coco Clennon is a plus-sized model. But realistically speaking, she’s a normal-sized girl with abnormally good looks, helping to re-pave the way in an industry that’s held notoriously high (and borderline unhealthy) standards for the way women’s bodies should look.
Here, we’re talking to Coco (@CocoClennon) about how she caught the attention of Ford Models, how she stays healthy, not letting haters get her down, and more.
Coco, we bow down.
YOU’RE A PLUS-SIZED MODEL. HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO THE INDUSTRY?
When I was 15, my aunt used me in a photo-shoot she was doing in Napa Valley. She noticed how comfortable I was in front of the camera, and suggested that I submit some of these photos to modeling agencies. I did, and got called into a few agencies, who liked my look, but they felt that I wasn’t quite strong enough for them to sign me. They gave me positive feedback, and encouraged me to not give up! So, I took acting lessons, and started working with a bunch of different photographers to learn more about how to move in front of the camera, angles, and posing. One photographer knew an agency that was specifically looking to build their plus board, and he introduced me to them. I signed with them a few weeks later!
YOU’RE NOW SIGNED WITH FORD, ONE OF THE LARGEST MODELING AGENCIES IN THE WORLD. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GET SIGNED BY THEM?
When I first started out, Ford was one of the agencies that called me in to take a look at me. They rejected me, but they were the ones who told me not to give up! They told me that even though I wasn’t what they were looking for at the time, you never know what can happen in the future. Three years later, they saw some of my work, and called me back in, and this time they signed me on the spot! It was so satisfying to have taken their suggestions, worked hard, and then had my efforts recognized and rewarded by their interest in me!
WHAT SORTS OF CAMPAIGNS AND BRANDS HAVE YOU MODELED FOR?
My agencies work hard to get me great opportunities! I’ve been fortunate enough to book jobs in a variety of areas from e-commerce to runway, print campaigns, in store displays, even HSN. I have done work for large retailers like BonTon, Belk, Sears, and Meijer, as well as several online retailers. I’ve also done work for small companies that you may have never heard of. Each job is a new adventure and an opportunity to build my reputation and my book! And it’s obviously one of the more fun parts of being a model!
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE THE CURVY GIRL IN AN INDUSTRY THAT’S ALL ABOUT BEING THIN?
Not that long ago the perception was that in order to be a model, you had to be very thin. When I first started working in this industry, my friends didn’t believe that I could be a model, because I wasn’t ‘thin enough’. It really hurt my feelings, but made me more determined to be successful. I kept my modeling life a secret in order to keep my friends. Fast forward five years – I have new and amazingly supportive friends and a blossoming career!
HAVE YOU NOTICED A DIFFERENCE IN THE NUMBER OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR PLUS-SIZE MODELS OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS? ARE MORE BRANDS STARTING TO COME AROUND TO THE IDEA THAT MOST WOMEN DON’T LOOK LIKE STRING BEANS? OR HASN’T ANYTHING CHANGED?
This is an exciting time to be a curvy girl in the modeling industry!! We are seeing more and more curvy girls used in mainstream campaigns, so the opportunities are definitely growing. There will always be designers and shows that are exclusive to straight/thin models, but I don’t see that as a roadblock to my success. I recently did a campaign for a company that just started including plus sizes in their ads and on social media! They have been flooded with positive comments from their customers! It feels great to be a part of that, knowing that people appreciate and notice the changing industry!
WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CAREER SUCCESS TO DATE?
I have booked a couple of jobs where I was chosen because of how I presented myself, and not based on being the right curvy girl. The client was looking for a certain energy and connection to their product, and didn’t have a preconceived idea of what the model would look like. They considered a variety of models, and chose me! I consider that to be my biggest career success, because the client based their choice on me as a whole person, and not just my measurements.
YOU LITERALLY SEEM TO RADIATE CONFIDENCE. WHERE DOES THAT COME FROM?
From a very young age I have been comfortable around new people and new situations! When I was six years old, I made a poster that said, “I can be the thing that I want to be,” and my mom pinned it on the family bulletin board. Over the years, whenever I would struggle with something, my mom would walk me over to the bulletin board and point to my little poster and that always empowers me to push on. My confidence comes from my six year old me, and my family’s unconditional support.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO MIGHT BE STRUGGLING WITH BODY IMAGE ISSUES?
This is something that I feel everybody struggles with at some point. It’s hard not to compare yourself with every beautiful person on social media! But nothing positive ever comes from that. When you can focus on being healthy and taking care of yourself from the inside out, then your mind can shift away from being so critical by what you see in the mirror. A good place to start is to find some activity that you really enjoy, and that makes you feel good. For me, it’s yoga and boxing. Look, I know I will never be a size 8! This is the body that I was given! But I know that by taking care of myself I will project my beauty from the inside out!
WHAT’S YOUR GOAL FOR YOUR MODELING CAREER? WHAT MESSAGE ARE YOU TRYING TO GET OUT?
As a plus size model, I’m striving to be a role model for women to help them feel confidently beautiful in the skin they are in. My motto is, “to be the best ‘me’ I can be,” working with the body that I have. My beauty and your beauty may not be the same, but let’s agree that beauty can be more than one look! I feel I’m in the right place at the right time to educate the world on the diversity of beauty, and the beauty of diversity!
My ultimate dream for my career would be to walk in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show as the first plus sized angel. I can’t think of a better way to get the message across of being confidently beautiful with curves than in this iconic nationally televised event. When this happens, it will be a sure sign that the world had accepted beauty in all sizes. And besides, I’ve always wanted to wear a pair of wings!
WHAT’S THE BEST CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
When I was rejected by Ford and they told me not to give up, I really took that to heart! Three years later they signed me. Rejection can either make you retreat or become more determined. Becoming more determined definitely paid off for me, and I wouldn’t change my journey here for anything!