Ice-T and Coco renewed their vows over the weekend, and their new show, Ice Loves Coco, premieres this Sunday. But aside from seeing random Tweets from her (Thong Thursday, anyone?) it's still kind of confusing: Who is Coco? For instance: How would you explain her to your mom?
Curious as to whether my mother had any idea about Coco, I called her and asked, "Do you know who Coco is?"
"Cocoa as in hot chocolate?" she asked.
"No… She's married to Ice-T."
"Oh, I know who she is now," my mom said definitively. "Is that the one that was a sex addict or something? She was a porn star or something and she was on one of those shows late at night? And she made all this money doing sex. On these late night shows. And Ice-T was her first client. I think I told you about it. I told you how pretty she was. She's from the Bahamas or something?"
"Um… no. I don't think that's the same person," I said, racking my brain for who my mom could possibly be talking about. A sex addict? From the Bahamas?
"Are you talking about Superhead?" I was kind of scared of what the answer might be.
"What is that? No." My mom seemed annoyed. "How do you spell Coco?" I spelled it for her, and there was silence.
"Are you Googling her?"
"Okay, I'll talk to you later." I hung up.
The thing is, to explain Coco is to explain the way fame works In This Day And Age. When you ask, "Who is Coco?" the answer is not, "Ice-T's wife, a 32-year-old dancer/model whose real name is Nicole Austin." That doesn't explain why there are almost a quarter of a million people following her on Twitter. The answer is complicated, and simple:
She's a blonde woman with a big butt.
It's a memorable gimmick, in a world that embraces women who have one. When I was younger, Elvira was ubiquitous. I'd never seen her in a movie or TV show, but she was in tons of commercials and there was a huge cardboard cut-out of her body at the grocery store. I didn't know what her career was all about, but I knew who she was based on her gimmick: Halloween hair and cleavage.
The number of women famous for being famous sex symbols — which is to say, notable for posing in skimpy clothing — has multiplied since then. Ladies like Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian have made a career as a professional "hot" chick completely possible. What's interesting about Coco (and Ms. Kardashian as well) is how she's used the internet to curate, dictate and create her image. Pin-ups of yore were nameless fantasies; Coco is accessible. Human. Instead of relying on glossy magazines and expensive photo shoots to assemble an untouchable bombshell persona, Coco Tweets about getting her nails done. She freely shares pictures of herself in a thong every Thursday, and usually, in her relentless self-promotion, she's the photographer, the model, the stylist and the PR rep. She posts constantly — to Twitter, to her blog, to her store — and when she can't deliver on something she's promised fans, she apologizes: "Sorry to disappoint."
And when it comes to that famous body, unlike movie stars who deny (or refuse to discuss) their reliance on plastic surgery or Botox, Coco admits that her hair color is not natural and her breasts are "enhanced." The booty? "I've always had a bubble butt," she writes on her blog. "I used to get teased all throughout my school years. Now it just happens to be in style and guess who's got one."
(My mom just called and said, "I found her. She looks like a porn star. Sorry.")
Coco may be the epitome of an object designed for the male gaze, but she merges that persona with her own, unabashedly feminine, friendly, extroverted, happily married reality. A newfangled business woman. And that's maybe the best way to explain it to your mom: She's famous for showing off her big butt in a thong, but she also seems really smart and nice.
Or, you could choose the description Coco uses for herself:
"I love to model and pose in sexy outfits.
I think I'm a very simple woman. Very low maintenance."
Ice Loves Coco [E!]