Puerto Rican model Joan Smalls catapulted to prominence in 2010, when the relatively unknown model was booked to walk in the Spring/Summer 2010 show for Givenchy Couture. Smalls has been listed as part of the BoF 500 from 2013 - 2018. This effectively portrays an illustrious career which includes walking over 400 shows for a slew of luxury labels and fronting a series of coveted advertising campaigns for the likes of Chanel, Ralph Lauren , David Yurman, and Tom Ford. The in-demand model was named as the face of Estée Lauder cosmetics in 2011, becoming the first Latina model to hold the title. Aerin Lauder, the beauty brand’s venerable Style and Image Director, remarked, “Joan is a modern beauty with elegance, style and confidence.”
According to Smalls, she was never “discovered.” Instead, she actively pursued modeling by entering local competitions in Puerto Rico, and submitting photos to agencies in New York City and Los Angeles. Years later, upon graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, an agent in New York City signed the lithe beauty. After a few years of catalog work, Givenchy Artistic Director, Riccardo Tisci, exclusively cast Smalls for the brand’s Spring 2010 Haute Couture collection. Shortly thereafter, Smalls starred in the brand’s ready-to-wear advertising campaigns and seemingly overnight captivated the entire fashion industry.
Smalls, who was diagnosed with scoliosis in her teens, has walked over four hundred runway shows, including Christian Dior Haute Couture, Chanel Haute Couture, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Versace, Prada, Balenciaga, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander Wang, and Marc Jacobs, among others. Demonstrating her wide range and versatility, Smalls has also walked in the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for six consecutive years, including its Swim Special filmed in Puerto Rico.
Widely admired for her electric energy on set, Smalls is regarded as one of the best in the business. She has a great ability to take direction, and transitions seamlessly from girl-next-door, to silver screen siren, to extreme androgyny. Karl Lagerfeld photographed her for several of his Chanel and Fendi campaigns, and Beyoncé invited Smalls to co-star in one of her music videos from her self-titled “visual album.”
Smalls ranked first on models.com for two consecutive years, and was awarded the title of “Model of the Year” at the Ninth Annual Style Awards. To date, Smalls has appeared on the covers of nearly two-dozen international editions of Vogue (including the 2014 September issue of the American edition) photographed by Mario Testino, Steven Meisel, Peter Lindbergh, Patrick Demarchelier, Craig McDean, Mario Sorrenti, David Sims, Norman Jean Roy, Sebastian Kim, and Terry Richardson. Additional covers include W, V, GQ, WSJ., Pop, CR Fashion Book, o32c, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle, as well as Sunday Times Style Magazine photographed by Cass Bird, and i-D by Mikael Jansson, Matt Jones, and Alasdair McLellan.
In addition to campaigns for Givenchy and Calvin Klein Jeans, Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott captured Smalls for Gucci for seven consecutive seasons. Select advertising campaigns include Tom Ford, Moschino, Miu Miu, Versace, Giambattista Valli, Hugo Boss, and David Yurman.
Off-duty, Smalls' radiance and passion is also channeled into important philanthropic efforts. “I love making people laugh,” says Smalls. “I love seeing a smile.” Smalls empowers others to defy definitions and is actively involved with Project Sunshine, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free educational and social programs to children and families living with medical conditions. Smalls inspires and unites girls to change the world through her involvement in the United Nations Girl Up Campaign, a global movement for gender equality through leadership development training.
“Being a woman of color in this industry, I had to work twice as hard.” Joan Smalls, supermodel and businesswoman, challenged norms and worked to achieve success. In June of 2017, Smalls announced her swimwear and lingerie collection in collaboration with size-inclusive and affordable brand Smart & Sexy. Joan made her acting debut in 2018 in the Netflix Original film “Set it Up” where she plays the love interest of the lead character, portrayed by Glen Powell.
Estee Lauder's Global Creative Director, Richard Ferretti has stated, “The word supermodel is overused, but if there’s any woman who deserves the title, it’s Joan.”
31 December 1969
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