Rocky Barnes: Rock the World
Photographer Nick Onken @nickonken
Model Rocky Barnes @rocky_barnes
Writer Madeline Rosene @madelinerosene
Wardrobe Stylist Erica Sanae @erica_sanae
Creative Director Tracy Kahn @tracykahn
Hair & Makeup Artist Suzie Kim @suziekmakeup
Videographer Ben Shani @benshaniproductions
Assistant David Madison @honest__eye
“I’ll have the Rosé,” said fashion model, blogger, and California beach girl, Rocky Barnes. We saton an off-white couch in the lobby of The Edition New York Hotel. “You have to get the last bitin before it gets cold. I feel like Labor Day really marks the end of summer in New York but in LA, summer’s just getting good. All the tourists go home and it’s warmer.” She is wearing a vibrantAll Things Mochi dress, a simple Amber Sceats necklace and Jeffrey Campbell black sandal pumps. “They’re Velcro. See?” She then held up her wrist to reveal a Cynthia Rowley flask bracelet. She unscrewed the top to show me the hollowed inside. “It’s aluminum so you can actually put booze in it. Happy fashion week!”
MR: So you and photographer Nick Onken have known each other for a while?
RB: I’ve known Nick for about as long as I’ve been modeling. It all started with a State Farm commercial, my first commercial.
MR: Do you visit New York City often?
RB: I’m here once in awhile. This is only my second New YorkFashion Week ever.
Swim week, on the other hand, is the craziest thing ever. I get there and I know everyone. I have a great lineup for this week though. I have a Vogue dinner on Saturday and then a Jimmy Choo/Net-a-Porter dinner. I may wear something from Ulla Johnson. It’s so my style and I really love it. I recently requested these mustard yellow overall pants. They’re so cute.
My boyfriend is from New York and he works in finance. He moved to LA in January and he loves it but he’s a New Yorker at heart. Every time he meets someone from New York living in LA, he’s like, “Did it take you a long time to like it here?”
There are pluses and minuses to both cities. I’m not good with the cold. New York in the winter isusually not good. My boyfriend flewme out here for Christmas last yearand I was so excited to have a white Christmas but it was the hottest winter in forever. No snow, but what are you going to do?
We were in Montauk this weekend and someone was like, “You guys are so Cali. You are the epitome of California. And I’m thinking, actually he’s the gnarliest New Yorker ever. The way he walks here is so different from the way he walks in LA. He has the confidence and a swagger when we walk around in New York City. Even though he works in finance, he’s very creative. He wants to open a dumpling shop in LA. He’s a foodie. We both are, which actually isn’t good for modeling. I’ve eaten so healthy my whole life and now I’m in this moment where I’m like, fuck it. We’ll see how that goes.
MR: Tell me about some of your philosophies on life?
RB: Positivity and positive thoughts are very powerful. They’ve worked for me definitely. When I was in high school, my mom showed me the movie The Secret. I think when it first came out there was kind of a lull because people thought it was some kind of hippy dippy thing. But I think there has been a resurgence ofit lately, or maybe because I have been into it recently, I just notice more that other people care about it too. I was working with this young photographer who had “LOA” tattooed on him, for Law of Attraction. He literally watches The Secret every day and we bonded over it. It’s fun and it’s very powerful.
MR: Did your follower count on social media increase gradually or was there an event that escalated your growth?
It was very gradual. Some people attribute my growth to the Justin Bieber video I was in four years ago, but that was before Instagram was even a thing. They thought I was 17 when I showed up on the set for that video. He was 18 and I was 26. I played his girlfriend in it. He was really nice to me.
I’ve had my blog for about three years now and I have seen steady growth. I’d say that I got in at the right time. There weren’t many bloggers featuring beach boho stuff at the time. I’ve about 1,000 followers every few days. I think gaining followers has slowed down for everyone. Last year I was getting 1,000 every day. Fortunately, people repost my photos all the time and that really helps but honestly, timing is everything. My look is timing. I’m half Asian. Being mixed is a popular look. Multi-ethnic is just of the time. Modeling ten years ago would never have happened for me because my look wasn’t popular then.
My dad is 6’2” with blue eyes. I’m 5’7”. My mom is Filipino. She was born in California but my mom’s family is from Hawaii, fourth generation American. My grandparents are from Hawaii. I grew up going every summer. I love it there. I love the surfer beach vibe and how everything is very casual. My mom and my great uncle are also very creative people. My mom was a buyer in LA and she went to school formerchandising. My great uncle did set design in New York City. He has a Tony Award for set design. Plus, he did interior design for years, including interior design for the king and queen of Saudi Arabia. He traveled for six years on an unlimited budget. He has more creativity than most people in his little finger.
MR: What do you like about social media?
RB: One of the best thingsabout social media is that if I need a recommendation for dinner or shopping, or a place to stay, I can post a question on my social media and peopleare so happy to give their opinions and advice. If I get ten recommendations for the same place, I’ll go. As much as I help people travel, my followers help me more. I have followers from all over the world who have inspired me.
I always read all of my comments. I find it interesting and I’ve met a lot of people on Instagram that I’ve ended up working with. My social media experience has been very positive. Most people have been really uplifting and positive.
MR: Where are some of your favorite places to travel?
RB: I went to India this year. That was one of my favorite trips. Bali is also one of my favorite places. I love the culture. It’s so friendly and beautiful. It’s very entertaining because there is so much to do there. Cape Town is another amazing place. I find that Cape Town is pretty similar to San Diego, where I lived for a long time.
I want to go to Tokyo and Turkey. I’m trying to make that manifest this year. Last year, my goal was to go to Africa and on safari in Botswana with Conde Nast. After Conde Nast saw our photos from India, they put together a marketing trip for influencers to go to Africa. So they flew a group of us, including my photographer, Grant Legan, and me, to Botswana. It was an eclectic group of people and a once in a lifetime trip. We stayed in an elephant sanctuary. Honestly, the cost of doing that trip is so astronomical that it’s not realistic for the average person to do it.
The camp we stayed at is at least a couple thousand a night. The flights were like $3,000 each. it took four flights to get there– LA to London, London to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Botswana, and finally, a puddle jumper to a dirt landing strip near the camp. The cost and difficulty of getting there, the chances of going back are unlikely. It was such a rare opportunity. Coincidentally, the grid who ran the camp was from San Diego. She even grew up near me. The more you travel, the smaller the world gets. That’s one of my favorite things about traveling, the world gets smaller and smaller in the best way.
MR: What’s next for you?
RB: Some day I’d love to make a clothing line. I’ve had a lot of offers but it hasn’t been the right match yet.