Rocha wrote on Tuesday afternoon that even though the cover makes her look as though she's wearing nothing under a sparkly, sheer dress, she was actually wearing a bodysuit when the photo was taken. Rocha claimed her undergarment was "photoshopped out to give the impression of me showing much more skin than I was, or am comfortable with. This was specifically against my expressed verbal and written direction to the entire team that they not do so. I’m extremely disappointed that my wishes and contract was ignored."
But more than being disappointed, Rocha could also be litigious. Susan Scafidi, the founder of Fordham University's Fashion Law Institute, told Fashionologie that Rocha could bring legal action against the magazine. Scafidi knows Rocha through her position on the board of directors of the Model Alliance, an organization that finds ways to improve working conditions for models; Rocha herself is a member of its advisory board.
"If her policy against no nudity or partial nudity was part of her written contract, then she can sue for breach of contract and potentially collect monetary damages," Scafidi wrote in an email. "It's possible that she could ask a court to stop distribution of the magazine, but that would probably be a long shot."
Scafidi went on to write that Rocha could still sue even if she only verbally expressed her desire not to appear naked. If that's the case, Rocha "might have an action for breach of privacy, emotional harm or — since she has a general no-nudity policy — damage to her professional reputation."
It's rare for models to speak up when their work depicts them in a manner that makes them uncomfortable — perhaps because of fear that they'll lose future opportunities. But Scafidi says Rocha is "a giant among models," so calling Elle Brazil to task won't hurt her.
"She won't be dropped by her agency or shunned by potential employers for writing about the incident or hiring a lawyer," Scafidi wrote. "But the fact that a major magazine would ignore even Coco's efforts to have some control over her own image gives a sense of how little authority models really have."
Scafidi was quick to point out that lesser-known models would still have the law on their side, but the same wouldn't necessarily be said of the industry at large.
"The sad reality is that if an unknown girl objected to being undressed via Photoshop and spoke out publicly against the client, she might as well be skinned alive, professionally speaking," she wrote.