In the ranks of models, Coco Mitchell holds a coveted place among the glam-azons who have graced the catwalk for legends like Yves St. Laurent, Thierry Mugler and Gianfranco Ferre. Igniting the runways with her signature mix of rhythm and sass, she’s arguably one of the best ever to do it. Now in her sixties, Mitchell returns to ESSENCE, the first magazine ever to feature her, to detail her amazing experiences.
ESSENCE: You’ve had such longevity in your career. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry over the years?
COCO MITCHELL: Most designers don’t do their own castings for fashion shows anymore. This is now left up to casting directors, so the first time that designers see the models is at fittings. Models who are signed to agencies and those who are not signed are in the same casting. This new arrangement has reduced opportunities for models to build careers with designers—and makes them feel expendable.
ESSENCE: What does ESSENCE magazine mean to you?
MITCHELL: When I first saw ESSENCE, I loved that it wasn’t “my mother’s magazine.” It was young, it was fresh, it was for me! I especially liked the September issues. They made you want to go to college.
ESSENCE: You’ve been very influential in pushing for diversity in the modeling industry. Where do you see fashion going?
MITCHELL: I pray that what is now seen as diversity and inclusion will be a normal occurrence, without fanfare.
ESSENCE: Can you tell us about your first time shooting with ESSENCE and what it means to be featured in our 50th Anniversary issue?
MITCHELL: My first shoot was the 1976 Holiday issue. I was in the presence of modeling royalty—Pat Cleveland was there, twirling and dancing with Sterling St. Jacques along with Grace Jones. And Toukie Smith was also on set being fabulous and effortlessly beautiful. I was blown away! To be in the 50th Anniversary issue is such an honor. It’s like coming full circle.
HAIR, KENDALL DORSEY/FACTORY DOWNTOWN
MAKEUP, KEYS REBELLE
MANICURE, MICHELLE MATTHEWS