"I don't mention my tricks the first time I tan you, because people will look at me like, 'You're going to do what?!'" celebrity spray tanner Jimmy Coco tells me with a laugh. "I mean, you probably know that if I ask you to lean forward it's because I'm getting the creases under your butt — but it’s just one of those things that becomes totally normal by the second time."
Of course, it's Jimmy's tried-and-true techniques that have made him the L.A. celebrity tanner — for everyone from Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner to Gigi Hadid and Katy Perry. "I use all of my tricks on every single client, no matter who they are — and whether they know it or not," he says. That includes things you might expect (light body contouring, tanning under the butt and breasts), but it also includes the totally unexpected. Like the fact that Jimmy meticulously sprays Kim Kardashian's hair part, which helps her faux glow appear that much more realistic.
Despite your opinions on Kim K. or the role tanning has on beauty or culture, there's no denying that Jimmy has charted an unprecedented career with his trusty spray gun. Aside from his private celebrity clients, he's also the man behind many of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows and the spokesperson for Aussie tan brand MineTan, a line with pro and at-home formulas for every complexion. Not bad for a guy who got his first celebrity job by chance — and had only practiced on paper towels before he showed up on set.
Jimmy shares all his secrets, below.
Fake It 'Til You Make It...
"In 2004, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was working as a swimwear and underwear model, I was in Terminator 3 — I was the guy that told Arnold Schwarzenegger to talk to the hand — and I'd been on a world tour dancing and singing for Chippendales [male revue]. But my full time job was being a bartender at The Abbey in L.A. I thought, "It's time to grow up...'
"I saw an infomercial on T.V. for a mobile spray tanning machine and decided that I would start a mobile tanning business. I went to my gym because I thought bodybuilders would be the best place to start. When I said that I was doing mobile tanning, you could see the heads turn — no one had ever heard of it before.
"One of the trainers told me that he knew Laura Prepon; she was on That 70s Show and was getting ready to do the cover of Maxim! I never in my wildest dreams thought I would actually get to tan her until I got the call [soon after]. When she asked how long I'd been doing it, I said 'Oh, about six months,' but I had only been practicing on paper towels! [Laughs]. It was scary!"
Becoming "Jimmy Coco"...
"Standing in front of Laura, I was just James Snyder from Sacramento, Jimmy Coco didn't exist. Laura’s publicist was also Jennifer Garner’s publicist, so then Jennifer wanted one. Then it was Lara Flynn Boyle, the Housewives, the Pussycat Dolls — it kind of just took off like wildfire to the point where I was getting referrals by people that I had never met before. I was like, ‘What is going on?!
"I picked the name Jimmy Jimmy Coco for my business when I lost my domain, Mobile Tanning Pro. I used a nickname from my days bartending in Miami, Jimmy Jimmy Coco, which my co-workers used to sing to the tune of 'Shimmy, Shimmy Coco Puff.'"
Why He Sprays Kim K.'s Hair Part
"It’s a good idea to spray your hair part, that way everything sort of blends nicely. A clear solution is safe to use, because your hair won’t tan, per se, and the bronzer will wash out, but I’ve really only seen it done on people with dark hair."
On Tanning Women And Men
"The boys are so funny. Women are more aware of their glam and know how to be careful. In my 14 years of doing spray tans, I can't tell you how many men have peed on their tans, even if I tell them to sit own on the toilet seat, because you don't want it to drip.
"Once Matthew McConaughey asked if he could work out after and I said, "No!' Then I got a call at 3:30 in the morning to come fix his tan [because] he didn't listen. [Laughs] But I love him, he is just so funny. I feel like he's a brother from a different lifetime, so I don't mind."
What It's Really Like To Tan VS Models
"The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is tough because the brand wants the models to have a very light sun-kissed glow. Everyone is in their underwear and you always have the model that has very fair skin and she wants to be dark, so now I'm juggling between what the model is asking and what VS is saying, so it’s tough line to walk. Plus, they’re in and out, and I never really get to see them before they hit the stage, so I worry the color will develop too dark or they won't shower when I tell them to. I definitely feel the stress."
Tanning Tricks You (Actually) Haven't Heard Before
"I alway contour my clients, but I don’t really point it out. After a few sessions, you get the idea when you look down and say, ‘Ohhhh you just gave me abs,’ but generally speaking I just polish up the beautiful contours I see in front of me.
"The smile lines under your butt are important to tan, so I am going to ask you to lean forward when I see you so we can get those lines. Under the boobs, too. Some of us are well-endowed and they hang down a little bit, which is absolutely normal, so when they’re standing in front of me, I will ask [them] to grab [their] boobs with both hands and lift up, then I spray underneath and do a whole lap — that’s when I do my contouring — because it gives it time to dry, and then I do a second take.
"Under the chin is often forgotten. Not everyone is going to see you from under your chin, but hey, he or she might, if you know what I mean, so I contour under the jawline. You can do it at home with a mitt and your tanning foam: Start at the base of your neck and go up, under your neck and around your chin, it frames the face."
His Craziest Celebrity Requests
"Spray tanning once a week is best, but I have clients I see every three or four days. I was on the road with Ariana Grande for a year because we tanned her several times per week.
"I come from a world where the client is always right, so what they want is what they get. I have clients that want their tan to be a little orange-y, because they like that glowing look, so whatever you want is okay with me as long as you’re happy. It might not be what I want for you, but you get what you want."
This story was originally published on September 22, 2017.
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