Joan Smalls will be forever grateful to Riccardo Tisci for pushing her into high fashion modelling.
The Puerto Rican model was signed to Elite Model Management in 2007 where she found success in commercial shoots. But Joan’s fashion aims were bigger and upon signing with IMG Models worldwide in 2009 she changed her focus to runway work and was quickly signed as an exclusive for Tisci’s Spring/Summer Haute Couture show in 2010, a moment which changed the course of her career entirely.
“I remember coming out of the fitting after I met with Riccardo (Tisci) and I got it! It was the ‘a-ha’ moment of euphoria. I was like, ‘Joan, this is it’, and I got goose bumps,” she told ES magazine. “And that changed everything. After that everyone saw me in a different light and for that I’m always grateful to him because he was the one who was able to reshape my image.”
Joan, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, then modelled haute couture and ready-to-wear collections for designers and fashion houses such as Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford. But it was her signing to cosmetics giant Estee Lauder as a brand ambassador which really cemented her star status, with Joan becoming the first Latina face to front a global campaign for the company.
“Getting that meant something. Being black and being Latina meant I had, like, two-for-one, and people previously had not totally comprehended that it’s okay to be two,” she shared, adding that the gig saw her receive great acclaim in her homeland. “Even until this day they are like: ‘Joan, thank you for putting our island’s name up there and thank you for making us proud.”‘
Her 2017 schedule is set to be as busy as ever, and Joan has already been tapped as a campaign star for Bottega Veneta and Michael Kors this year. She also had a small role in Keanu Reeves movie John Wick: Chapter 2.
“I always believe if you want something you should always give 100 per cent. I went into (modelling) knowing I wanted to be the best, the best for Joan,” she added.