Joan Smalls

Joan Smalls gets emotional as she talks her family and being inspired by Puerto Rico

Joan Smalls got emotional as she returned to her home island. The supermodel appeared in the first episode of Vogue’s Supermodel Roots series, where she returned home to the island of Puerto Rico. In the video, the 30-year-old cover girl got emotional as she gave the magazine a closer look at her family and life. Joan candidly reflected on a part of her family history that she rarely shares. “I know how much my parents sacrificed,” she said as she began to tear up.

Joan Small made a special trip home to Puerto Rico Photo: YouTube/Vogue

“We were living in a one-bedroom apartment with two beds. And I remember mommy and daddy sleeping on the floor. And that was always my push. They had it worse.” The model credits her humble upbrining and hometown for helping her realize that message was bigger than the catwalk, when she made history as the first Latina to represent a major cosmetics brand. “I didn’t know that the message was so much greater than me booking a job after job,” she said.

MORE: Joan Smalls on inclusivity in beauty and fashion brands 

“But what I was doing was creating a path for others. Becoming the first African Latina model to represent Estée Lauder. Joan admitted that she has always remained close to her hometown. So much, that when hurricane Maria left the island devastated in 2017, she immediately dropped out of a major show to focus on healing.

The supermodel got emotional as she talked about the impact of her home island on her life and career Photo: YouTube/Vogue

“Growing up in Puerto Rico you’re accustomed of hurricanes,” she said. “You have hurricane season you just never know what year it’s going to be that takes it to that place. I remember just being at the hotel room breaking down after seeing those images.” She continued: “I’m dealing with my family stuck on an island. I left and I canceled the show. When you can’t communicate with your family for more than 10 days, trust me you know pain.” On top of everything she and the island have gone through, Joan embodies the spirit of the strong island and her family.

MORE: Joan Smalls on the aftermath of hurricane Maria: "The island is strong" 

“I always see Puerto Rico as this island that is resilient,” she added. “You take pride in who you are and what you have, and you need to protect it. So, for me going back home is like reminding myself of that. And it’s just like a different world.”

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