Cozy: ‘The Industry Is Changing, It’s Our Time’
Cozy is the reason you should never judge a book by its cover. The 22-year-old Jersey City native could easily be cocky: He’s already worked with ASAP Rocky several times, appearing on the rapper’s latest album cover, Testing, and in a couple of music videos, and, last month, he walked for Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss and Ronnie Feig’s Kith for NYFW Spring/Summer 2019. (Oh, he’s also a star former student athlete.) But once you get Cozy talking, he goes deep. “If you’re overthinking like, ‘Oh, does this look good? Does this look good?,’ you’re trying to be somebody else,” he says. “And it’s hard to be somebody else, because that’s not you.” Below, Cozy chats with Other Suns about beauty, confidence, and how Virgil Abloh and Pyer Moss are making iconic moves for black culture in fashion.
Cozy walking in Pyer Moss' Spring/Summer 2019 show, at the Weeksville Heritage Center.
Amirah Mercer: How long have you been modeling?
Cozy: I’ve been modeling for four years now, but I started taking it really, really, really seriously two years ago.
Amirah: You have such a memorable look. When you first started, did you feel like you had to fit into a certain mold of what a model should look like?
Cozy: Honestly, when I looked at magazines like Vogue, and I saw all these models, I was like, ‘Damn, I have no shot.’ Four years ago, when I was trying to model, I was on my campus [at Saint Peter’s University] and every time people would see me set up for a shot, they would laugh at me. People would be like, ‘Oh, he’s just an Instagram model.’ So for those first two years, I let those people get into my head. But if you really don’t care what anybody says, if you show that you’re confident, that’s the beauty of the person you are. There’s a lot of people that don’t have the ideal beauty, but they use their flaws to show their confidence and then it comes out as beauty. Being comfortable in your skin, being confident, you’re going to show everyone you’re a piece of art, that you’re beautiful. You’re not supposed to care about what anybody says to you.
Amirah: There’s a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: ‘To be beautiful means to be yourself.’ It’s so simple, but it’s so true.
Cozy: Exactly. If you’re overthinking like, ‘Oh, does this look good? Does this look good?,’ you’re trying to be somebody else. And it’s hard to be somebody else, because that’s not you. Everybody’s unique. Everybody’s different. If everybody showcased that, I’m pretty sure a lot of people would be blooming right now.
Amirah: Has anyone been like a mentor for you in the industry?
Cozy: We don’t speak often, but I know ASAP Rocky personally. He was like a mentor when I was on the set for his album cover for Testing. He was teaching me a lot of stuff, telling me why he chose the people that were on set. He was basically telling me the real—like, the industry looks like it’s changing up, and it’s our time to show that we can do this. I don’t think he was just talking about people my age, but more so the black race. A lot of people from the African [diaspora] have been doing big things. The biggest thing I can think of is Virgil Abloh as the first black designer for Louis Vuitton. Like, that’s crazy. I thought that would never happen honestly.
Amirah: I’m curious, do people ever stop you on the street and think you’re ASAP?
Cozy: Yeah, a lot. It’s either ASAP or Travis Scott. In New York, people know me, they notice me. I get stopped to take pictures all the time.
Amirah: Back on topic: Is it important for you to see more people of color both in front and behind the scenes?
Cozy: Yeah. I still see my fair share of going into a casting and, next thing I know, I don’t get it but I look up the show and it’ll be mainly white models. But I don’t think too into it because, hey, that’s the designer’s vision. But there’s a lot more black models and minorities on the runway. It’s really good to see. It just gives me more confidence that I could break through all of those obstacles. What Virgil’s doing for Louis Vuitton—there weren’t a lot of black people who would walk for these high-end fashion brands. Only people that were celebrities, people that were already on.
Amirah: Did you have a favorite moment from this season?
Cozy: The Pyer Moss show was very iconic. I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into until I was walking the runway. It was basically all black empowerment: Every model was black. There was a choir singing, they were swag surfing. It was hella iconic for the culture. So while I was walking it, it was so hard not to bop, not to even, like, show some rhythm. I want to do that again. I want to walk one more time, just because it was a moving experience.
Amirah: How has being a student athlete helped you handle the pressures of modeling?
Cozy: Basketball taught me about life. My coach always said, ‘How bad do you want it?’ We used to do this basketball drill where he would roll the ball out in front of us and there would be two teammates who would basically dive for the ball. Who’s going to get the ball? Who really wants it that bad? So once I started modeling, I took it very seriously, like, how bad do I want it? I went out every day to networking events, went to stores just to show my face. I would try to do a lot in one day just so I could feel satisfied, like, ‘Yeah, I worked towards my goal today.’ Literally every day I try to make way more moves than I did the last day.
Amirah: I love that you knew that’s how you had to hustle to get started.
Cozy: Exactly—in basketball it’s more physicality and that’s when you know you’re working hard, when you start to hurt. With modeling, it’s not just clothes and fashion, it’s about connecting with one another and feeling a vibe and energy and all that.
Amirah: How do you use social media as model? Do you feel any pressure to make sure you always have content?
Cozy: No. When I started, I thought that was really, really important. I thought Instagram was, like, the No. 1 thing for people to notice you. But I actually tell myself [now] to ignore Instagram, because Instagram—it’s honestly just fake. It’s fake. At the end of the day, it’s not real life. Yeah, I post my accomplishments from here and there, because for modeling that’s a public portfolio, but my mind is not toward that at all. It helps a lot, there’s a lot of work that I got through Instagram, but it just limits you, you know?
Amirah: Who do you want to walk for next?
Cozy: I would say Raf Simons at Calvin Klein. I’m not going to stress over it—if it comes it comes. I just go by my gut. If something doesn’t feel right, I won’t do it. If something does, I’ll definitely do it.