On paper (or, should we say, in Instagram speak) Derry model Joanna Cooper has it all; 85,000 followers, modelling campaigns, a heart-throb boyfriend in rugby player Conor Murray, the perfect pout, and a body to die for.
By Sarah O'Hegarty
However, she’s far too savvy to buy into her own hype.
A true millennial moment, Joanna was discovered just over two years ago, when the European casting director of Urban Outfitters plucked her from obscurity after spotting her Instagram profile. Within two weeks, she had bashed out some test shoots, signed to a manager and set up home in London town – whirlwind doesn’t begin to describe it. However, Cooper (or Coops as her Insta moniker denotes) is peak humble about it all.
“I didn’t really fit in around my estate at home. And I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing, so I just said I’d go for it,” she tells me in her native Derry accent, which – in spite of two years living in London – hasn’t lost any of its character.
Now, Joanna is on the circuit of e-com royalty, a growing division in the modelling world which once would have been sniffed at by the hierarchy, but is now seen as a veritable micro-industry in itself. For Cooper, that means shooting for the likes of River Island, ASOS and Urban Outfitters.
When asked about her dream job there are no musings of Anna Wintour or Vogue Italia here – she sees e-com as the best training in the business: “I watch the other girls and they move at a million miles per hour. Plus, if you’ve been with a brand for a while, they will be quite loyal so you end up getting to know the team.”
Indeed, that accent is one of the first things you notice about the 24-year-old who, on set, is petite but striking to say the least. Shades of Michelle Pfeiffer bleed into an intense stare and presence to rival big screen legends like Charlize Theron. Then there is that elfin charm, which has seen the Miss Universe Ireland winner amass Cara Delevingne comparisons like they’re going out of fashion.
However, there is no room for notions in the Cooper household, we hear. “I’ve four older brothers and if I came home with a London accent they would rip into me, so there’s no fear of that happening!” In today’s Instagram world, such rebellion against homogenisation is refreshing.
Joanna’s Insta-feed still nods to her Irish roots (pints of Guinness and packets of crisps make some appearances), perhaps a certain Limerick-based boyfriend has something to do with that? (Cooper is dating Munster rugby star Conor Murray.) The couple – who do long distance as Murray is still based in Ireland – met on a night out in London last year.
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Long distance love
On the topic of her beau she is not tight- lipped, acknowledging why people might be interested, but ultimately keeps it low-key. Was it love at first sight? “I’m not sure if I’d say that!” she laughs. When they are together she assures me they have a very average Netflix household (just an extra good looking one). “We’re off on holidays to Portugal and Greece soon, I can’t wait to have a break.”
While Cooper isn’t immune to online negativity or jealousy, she is smart enough to take the Instagram rabbit hole with a pinch of salt. “It’s a love/hate relationship. You can come off it [Instagram] after spending hours on it and seeing these Insta girls...you end up wanting a new set of abs, new hair and a whole new life. Sometimes it can be too much. But at the same time it’s useful for work. It’s finding balance, I suppose.”
Like a lot of her generation, she sees being politically charged as a given. “You could see it massively in the abortion referendum...the way that our age group came out [to share their voices], it was incredible.” Next up, she is supporting the movement to change the still-prohibitive abortion laws in Northern Ireland, of which she says “it’s about time”.
Equally, she’s just returned from a trip to India with the charity Fashion for Change, to promote sustainability in fashion, and raise awareness of inhumane working conditions in the industry, something which she recently spoke about at a panel discussion at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A).
“When I was in India, I was genuinely so shocked by it all. I think the fashion world is a bit broken at the minute,” she pauses. “But there’s lots of things we can do to fix it.” Hooray for youthful exuberance.
Photography by Louise Samuelson; styling by Corina Gaffey; makeup by Christine Lucignano; hair by Trudy Hayes
This interview appears in the August issue of Irish Tatler, on shelves now.
Cover image, Joanna wears: Coat, €180, Helene Berman at ASOS; earring, €260, Marni at Brown Thomas; dress, €76, River Island