Joan Jump for
ou don’t reach Joan Smalls’ levels of supermodeldom by just showing up and hoping for the best. Actually, the Joan Smalls way is to set goals – big goals – and go for them.
“Even when I was hearing no, no, no… I wanted to prove them wrong,” the 28 year old recalls of her early modelling days, when she felt stuck doing catalogues. “I was maybe 20, 21, and really frustrated with how things were going. I knew something required a change.”
So the Puerto Rico-born Joan sat down and wrote a detailed and fairly ambitious to- do list: get shot by Mario Testino, walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and be Estée Lauder’s first Latina spokeswoman. Check. Check. Check. And on her CV since then? She’s played muse to Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, become a regular in the Balmain army and made a particularly badass cameo in Beyoncé’s ‘ Yoncé’ video.
How exactly does she make all of that happen? Joan gives the backstory on her goals strategy.
GLAMOUR You’re a doer. How did you jump-start your career? JOAN Initially, that meant finding a new agent; I needed someone who believed in me like I believed in myself. I had a game plan: make sure to get an exclusive. Shoot with this photographer. Go to events. Be social. But also being black and Hispanic, you have so much to prove to yourself and your family and everybody back home. I wanted to prove to people that it doesn’t matter if you come from a small little island, you can still make it in this industry. Did you always feel confident, or did that come later? Back home, I had always been comfortable around people. I was the troublemaker, always being funny – that’s just who I am. I’m Latina; I’ve always had that extra little flavour. But when I came to New York, it became about being comfortable with myself in a place where I didn’t know many people, and that was the big challenge. Ultimately, my personality helped me build relationships with the people I was working with, and I was able to stand out. You’ve become pretty good at lining up your career goals and making them happen. Were there any you knew to pull the plug on early? I remember one. When I first started out, I wanted to be the face of a box of hair colour. I thought that would be so cool. That kind of phased out. Staying focused has clearly paid off. Models.com ranks you as one of the Money Girls (one of the industry’s highest earners). What feels most important to you now? Breaking barriers when it comes to modelling. I think that there’s only so much runway I can do, there are only so many covers I can do – which I love – but it’s also about doing things that haven’t been done. Like what? I’d like to see more beauty campaigns for girls who are mixed Latina and black. And if I’m in them, that’s great, but overall, there’s a scarcity there. Companies need to be more mindful of the world we live in and who their consumer is.
Her height, making her taller than Naomi Campbell (1.75m). Amount of years she’s been with Estée Lauder as the first Latina signed to a worldwide campaign for the brand.