Joan Smalls Rodriguez is a Puerto Rican fashion model. Since September 2012, she has been ranked the #1 model in the world according to Models.com.
Her nickname is “Joanji” and she is a mix of Afro-Irish, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Taino Indian and South Asian ancestry. Her measurements are 32.5 – 24 – 34.
Joan Smalls grew up on a farm on Puerto Rico’s northern coast, the youngest of three daughters. Growing up, she was a tomboy. “I was always getting messy, falling down and scratching my knee.”
Joan learned about modeling from watching Fashion TV, and by the time she was 13, she was entering local competitions. But she lost every single one. “I was told I was too tall, too think and too dark.”
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Not helping was an agent’s advice that “there’s only room for one” black girl at a time (arogundade.com).
Believing in herself, Joan Smalls searched New York’s top model agencies and planned a schedule when they were open to new girls. Her father paid for her airfare as long as she got an education. Spotted by a model scout, she was told to fix her crooked teeth, which she did, as well as finished her education, earning a psychology degree.
Joan Smalls moved permanently to Queens in 2007 and lived with her aunt. Her big break came in 2010 when she walked for Givenchy in Paris. She then became the first Latina to ever represent Estee Lauder. QG said she was from “a particularly lucky gene pool that can straddle Bond girl vixen, sleek commercialism and absolute edge.”
Joan Smalls said of being number one on Models.com: “It feels amazing being number one. I’m extremely flattered, honored and just blessed.” She grounds herself, too. “You just have to remember who you are and where you come from.”
When she made her first chunk of money, the first things she bought were a new pick-up truck for her father, and a new kitchen for her mother.
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Joan Smalls also serves as a co-host of MTV’s fashion series, “House of Style.”
Some trivia: she loves home-cooked food; she hates travelling, and her model icon is Stella Tenant; she also doesn’t drink alcohol, and she has no celebrity crushes.
The best part of being a model, she said, is that “It’s unpredictable and every day is different. The worst is the traveling to amazing places and not getting to enjoy them with someone you love, or not seeing your destination because the trip is short.”
Joan Smalls resides in New York City.