One problem with being a model is what to do after your 15 minutes on the runway runs out. (You know, when you turn 19.) Most retired catwalkers are doomed to just be beautiful (instead of beautiful and semi-famous) for the rest of their lives. And sashaying down the produce aisle at Whole Foods just doesn’t offer the same rewards.
So last night, Glamour Magazine ran a program at the 92Y, entitled “Secrets of Start-Up Queens: How to Launch a Successful Business in Today’s Entrepreneurial Economy.” On the panel: Dylan Lauren, Piera Gelardi of Refinery29, and SoulCycle’s Elizabeth Cutler, as well as top models Coco Rocha and Iman, who both discussed diversifying their modeling careers.
Iman spoke of photoshoots early in her career, and the struggle to find makeup shades that matched her skin color. (Incidentally, the first time she wore makeup at all was on her first shoot.) So, years later with her supermodel status cemented, she decided to start her own eponymous makeup line targeted toward women of color. To be taken seriously as a businesswomen, though, she said she needed to “divorce herself from the [fashion] industry.”
I stopped going to fashion parties and networked not with fashion people but [with] business people. And I asked for help from executives. You will not believe, when you reach out and ask to be mentored by another female executive, how you will be uplifted.
Coco Rocha then told the audience she’d been peppering Iman with “entrepreneurial questions” in turn. While Iman branded a product she felt passionate about, Coco made herself the brand: “This is awkward because I’m listening to these ladies that are powerful businesswomen and I’m like uh… ME!”
She spoke of wanting to create a well-known persona in the same way the “old era” of supermodels did. She said, “I noticed that no-one knew much about me and no-one cared to know [either].” She cited social media as the way she’s created a personality to accompany the face. (As of writing, Rocha has 550,607 Twitter followers and 427,066 on Instagram. She recently wrote a “Why I Instagram” column for Vogue.)
[As a model] I had no way to have a voice — so in order to have a longer, more successful career, I started a blog. I wrote about nothing; I remember one post was about a bird named Tweety. And people were like, ‘Tweety’s so cool, he’s fantastic.’ I thought, ‘this is really awesome, I have an audience!’
To wrap up the panel and end on an “empowering” note, Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive asked the women, “If you could publicly announce ‘I told you so’ to anyone, who would it be?”
“I was the nerd in high school, I was punished for being tall. To all of you jocks and cheerleaders… look where I am now,” said Coco. Iman, on the other hand, remembered a snide remark by the co-founder of Ford modeling agency: “Eileen Ford looked at me and said, ‘She’s not gonna make it.’”
(Eileen Ford was wrong.)