Making unique videos and visual artistry with 8 wheels beneath her feet that showcase sheer artistry.
Profile by Steve Root
Bold, fearless, outrageous, uninhibited. All are words that come to mind when Coco Franklin is on a roll in her massively popular skate videos. But introverted?
“When I’m dressing up,” says Franklin, “it’s a persona. It’s definitely not my everyday personality. I’m introverted, so it’s a fun way to express myself.”
And that is the beauty of being a visual artist in the time of the creator revolution: If you have talent, a phone and some moxie, you don’t have to be an extrovert, you can just play one online.
Franklin’s been doing just that on Instagram and TikTok in skating videos that have garnered over 200k and 425k followers respectively. And while there are certainly other people making skate videos out there, her creative style is one-of-a-kind.
“Social media is changing so fast. Anytime you think you’re going to focus on a given app, something changes with the algorithm. So right now, I’m focusing on Instagram. But I love videography, and my full storytelling potential is for YouTube.”
Creating her unique brand
She has traveled the world over making her kinetic art in which she can be seen skating in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Times Square, across the Golden Gate Bridge, along Miami’s beachfront, through the Mojave Desert and even on a thirst-quenching Munich beer crawl. And in every clip, the one time fashion buyer and personal stylist displays a sartorial sense that’s uniquely, well, Coconian: bikinis, boas, bandeaus and braids, wigs for miles and sometimes the odd whip accompanying the occasional pleather catsuit thrown in for mystery and good measure.
“I was obsessed with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman when I saw Batman Returns as a little girl. I had never seen anything like that. She just did whatever the fuck she wanted to do. Just like, F?!*% this. F?!*% everybody, F?!*% society. And I’m like, oh my god, that’s how I feel. So, the story I wanted to convey was how [my character] is very unbothered. I had robbed the bank, I was just like, leaving. The audio talks about the killer’s escape. I thought it was hilarious!”
“I used to despise being called cute, because I feel like female athletes are always judged on what they look like, and nobody cares if you’re a skilled athlete. It’s like you can’t be intelligent, attractive and physically talented all at once. Same with my videos.
For the longest time, people couldn’t believe that I was editing, doing my own drone work, and coming up with the concepts.”
And then there’s her choice of music. Try to categorize it at your own peril, because Franklin’s taste in tunes whipsaws between Drake and Kanye West, the Backyardigans and the Muffs, Nirvana and singer Ilene Woods, original voice of the title character of Walt Disney’s Cinderella.
It’s a collection of eclectic elements that blend into a distinct concoction. To watch a Coco Franklin video creation is to know you’re watching a Coco Franklin video creation.
The pursuit of visual artistry may have come to the Long Beach, California native later in life (she’s been posting to Facebook as an early adopter, and to Instagram and TikTok as they came online), but skating is part of her origin story, having pretty much been born with 8 wheels beneath her feet. “I started skating when I was 3,” says Franklin.
“If you grew up Black in L.A. in the ’90s, everybody skated. It’s a big cultural thing, and it’s always been a part of my lifestyle.My mom took me and my sister to the rink all the time. I used to hang onto her, but then the day she finally let go, well that was it!”
Trade craft: teaching your art to others
Franklin never looked back. Except, of course, when she was skating backwards—eventually instructing others how to do the same. “I love to teach,” she says. “I’m passionate about it. I’ve taught all over Europe and America. I want to teach as long as I can.”
And as the pandemic unfolded, the rise of roller skating as a form of artistry, fashion and fun saw the demand for skates, skating fashion and instruction increase. The visual display of the artists and art form was part of the playground made precisely for Coco’s work and teaching.
She must be doing something right in that department, because she sometimes enlists her former neophytes, who are now “killing it in street skating,” to serve as videographers on her productions. “Not everyone can keep up with me,” she says with a laugh. “Sometimes it’s my husband filming, but bless his heart, he’s not the best skater.”
Much like her lifestyle (“it’s unconventional, or so I’ve been told”), Franklin’s approach to creating is not, perhaps, typically by the book. “It starts with the outfit,” she says. “What do I want to wear, what do I want my hair to look like? Next, I pick out my skates.” Keen-eyed followers know to watch out for her wicked custom skates, including death-defying “high wheels”—don’t try those at home, kids.
"If it's by the beach, people want to see a bikini, nice hair, cute-cute-cute."
“Then I’ll think about what kind of a video I want it to be. I have a few different categories. I can be a very skillful skater—I’m a professional—but that can be intimidating for some people. Some women get triggered when they see everything look so perfect. So, is this a skillful video, or a pretty/cute video? That will determine where I’ll shoot.
“For a cute video, I’ll find a location that’s not so busy. But if it’s a skillful video, the background will be more high energy and hustle-bustle. Like the NY Times Square videos, where the stuff I’m doing is incredibly difficult, with all the lights as the stage. But if it’s by the beach, people want to see a bikini, nice hair, cute-cute-cute.”
To get the look, you need the lighting
Light is critical to Coco’s videos, which often have a golden, sun-drenched quality to them. She prefers filming early and late in the day not only because of the quality of the light but because, she says, there are often fewer people around at those times to become distractions.
“Sunlight is a big part of my process. I like to shoot in the afternoon, what they call magic hour, or in the morning. In California, I really prefer to film off the summer season. The summer sun in California is so harsh. Even at sunset it’s a little intense.”
“My skin is quite dark, so I have to be really conscious that I can be seen. Is the light shining on me, not behind me? Even when someone else is filming me, I have to be very directive, otherwise it won’t be the kind of product I want.”
“I know what my skin is going to look like in the sun. I’m not a big makeup person. Maybe some lipstick and some lashes, but for the most part it is just natural. So that’s part of my aesthetic.”
“Sometimes I like to use a stick and shoot myself. It gives people a point of view, they can see how fast I’m going, the body movement and how difficult it is. It’s not easy filming yourself.”
Music makes it magical
Lastly comes the music. It isn’t added or, in some cases, even decided upon until post-production, and that may come as a revelation, since Franklin’s physical performance is often tightly synched to the tune. “I may have a song in mind and I’ll be listening to that during production,” says Franklin, “but then afterwards, in post, sometimes it doesn’t vibe together. Sometimes I have to edit something out, like maybe someone stepped into the shot, or they touched you … some people are psycho crazy! Any of those things can change the flow and tempo of the video. So sometimes, I have to pick something else.”
Though a skater to her core, Franklin’s got plans for other types of content creation as well. “Eight or nine years ago,” she says, “I went to India to immerse myself in traditional yogi culture and to study to get my training certification to teach yoga. I’m looking to make more long-form content on YouTube. More fashion-type of videos. My next journey is to do some women's retreats to teach spirituality, yoga, roller skating, mindfulness, the art of moving your body.”
And while that may sound more in line with someone self-described as “introverted,” you can bet her creations about it will be overtly … Coconian.
Coco Franklin is a professional roller-skater, teacher, yoga instructor and world-traveler. You can learn with Coco by following her, watching her videos, or taking a class.