Why Joan Smalls’ “Supermodels Roots” with Vogue International Is Significant to Latinas

Not a lot of folks know that supermodel Joan Smalls is Latina. That’s because mainstream media doesn’t do the best job at acknowledging that Latinos aren’t exclusive to one race. But the truth is, Smalls is Afro-Latina, 100 percent Puerto Rican, and 1000 percent proud of her heritage and her roots. In fact, in the first episode of Vogue’s Supermodel Roots with Vogue International, Smalls touches on how growing up on the island grounded her, how Hurricane Maria impacted her, and the struggle she’s experienced with folks not understanding that you can be both Black and Latina.

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New Era of SuperModels: Joan Smalls


In an age where true supermodels were a thing of the past, a fresh face appears. Chances are you’ve seen Joan Smalls on the cover of your favorite magazine already. She is currently on the cover of the July 2012 issue of W Magazine and has been dubbed the “new face of fashion”. So who is this Joan Smalls?

joan-smalls-estee-lauder Joan Smalls was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She comes from a multi-ethnic family (a father from St. Thomas and a Puerto Rican mother) and is said to be of African, Spanish, Taino Indian, Irish and Hindu descent. Smalls said she has always known since the age of five that she wanted to become a model, but those dreams weren’t realized until she made the move to New York City. Before the move she graduated Magna Cum Laude from the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. In 2007 she left the island and moved in with her aunt in Queens, and signed with Elite Model Management immediately thereafter.

Smalls made her high-fashion debut in January 2010 when she was featured as the exclusive model for Ricardo Tischi’s Givenchy Fall/Winter 2010 Couture Show… and she has been working with the best names in fashion ever since.

Joan-Smalls-Vogue-Australia-May-2012With two Vogue covers, an Estée Lauder contract, and campaigns that include Chanel and Gucci and Givenchy, it is easy to see that the sky is the limit for this educated beauty. The amount of work that she has already done gives her the resume of a pro. She has walked for designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney, Prada, and Marc Jacobs among others. She appeared in the 2011 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and has appeared in numerous campaigns, editorials and magazine covers.

With all of the success and exposure that her career has brought upon her, Joan Smalls understands the importance of representing a group of women that you rarely see in high fashion magazine. Joan Smalls explains in the July issue of W Magazine:

“I just have something to prove. I know I’m representing a group — black, Latin, whatever you want to put me with — and I want to show that they are beautiful the way they are. I think that’s really important for our youth to see. Fashion is part of our culture… and it’s about more than just a pretty dress.”

Don’t forget to pick up the July issue of W Magazine !