It was during an especially humid Hawaiian afternoon that Claudia Cox found herself sprawled on the cool tile floor, swept up in a brainstorming session with her housemates (actress Evangeline Lilly and designer Jennifer Sheridan) that would, shortly after, lead to a new career.
The Brazilian-born model's journey to that hazy, defining moment had been a winding road. After short stints as a competitive bodyboarder and stunt woman, Cox found herself adrift in Hawaii, searching for "the next big thing." That's when a local casting director noticed Cox's unruly dark curls and athletic build, traits that made her a dead-ringer for the star of the newest prime-time sensation. Cox would work as a stand-in for Lilly's character "Kate" on LOST for the next few years.
Flash forward and Cox is one-half of Rfavela, a clothing and accessories line that harkens back to both her heritage (favela means "shanty town") and the very island house that inspired its inception. Here, we talk with Cox about breaking teeth, kicking butt and giving back:
What made you switch from surfing to bodyboarding?
I start surfing when I was 12 years old and when I was 13 I had a surfing accident and broke my front teeth. I got scared of the surfboard and started bodyboarding instead, which led me to my new home in Hawaii.
After your bodyboarding career, you spent some time modeling. Did a particular job get you noticed for the part on LOST?
I started modeling in Brazil when one of my guy friends seduced me with the idea that if I became a model I would travel and surf around the world. I got selected to go to Rio de Janeiro, where they had a good acting school. I was there for two weeks and just thought was kind lame and I spent most of my days there sneaking away and going surfing- I decided that wasn't for me.
After modeling in Hawaii for a while for surf companies, I signed up with a local modeling agency and started to do extra work on TV shows and movies. I ended up being a double for someone on Baywatch, doing all her action scenes in the water, which led to the job with LOST. So much for the girl that thought the movie business wasn't for her! I worked on all six seasons of LOST.
We're guessing being a stand-in isn't as glamourous as it seems?
We were constantly covered in mud, wet, running in the jungle with all kinds of bugs, working long hours. I even coordinated a fight scene once since our stunt coordinator and director were late for some reason. They would let me do some stunts– the easier ones.
Seems like a character stranded on an island, wearing the same outfit all the time, wouldn't be a good source of inspiration for a clothing line!
I was so sick of wearing the same clothes over and over for months. We would be so happy when we had to shoot a flashback so we could wear clean clothes, and get out of our rubber boots and mud-stained clothes!
The three of you came up with the idea for your line while in a hot house- what was the conversation like?
Jennifer Sheridan and I were living in Kailua at Evangeline Lilly's house. We were pretty much always creating something on our days off; the house had little creative stations where one of us was always painting or writing. Jen wanted to create bikinis, but I wanted to do something different, which ended up being beautiful lingerie I would make in Brazil. I would spread samples on the floor, asking Evangeline and Jen which ones they liked the most.
So what are your favorite pieces from Rfavela?
I really love the lingerie collection that I designed in Bali– hopefully it will be available next summer. For my jewelry, I use feathers from a local farm in Kahuku– I get the feathers that fall from the roosters while their molting!
Why did you decide to donate money to Task Brasil out of all the charities out there?
We researched Task Brasil– Jen went to Brazil to visit them, and was very impressed with their work. I am Brazilian and I have always wanted to find a way to help the kids from my country. We use the name "favela," so I want to give back to those people that live there.