Joan Smalls is loving the skin she is in as she enters a new decade. The 30-year-old – she celebrated the milestone birthday in July – is currently jet-setting across the world for fashion month. The Puerto Rican stunner took New York by storm in shows like Michael Kors and Savage x Fenty and then lived la dolce vita in Milan for Max Mara and Moschino. Next up for the Estée Lauder ambassador is Paris.
During a chat with HOLA! USA over Bacardi cocktails at the Raise Your Rum party at NYC’s Broken Shaker, Joan explained how she has seen the fashion and beauty industries changing for the better in terms of diversity and inclusivity. The supermodel is also taking matters into her own hands with her Smart and Sexy line.
HOLA! USA: Growing up, were you always confident?
Joan Smalls: “When it comes to confidence, thank God I had parents who instilled in me to believe in myself and to believe that I was beautiful and know it, rather than having it validated from a stranger or from the outside world. I had a household that made sure I stayed confident and knew that who I was was enough. I was able to survive, and it helped me throughout my life.”
Was there one woman in your life who instilled that confidence in you?
“My mom for sure. And I would always say: ‘You’re just saying that because you’re my mom,’ and then later I realized she was right. And until this day, when I go in for jobs she tells me, ‘Joan remember, you’re the star.’ And not star as in celebrity star, she means like a bright star.”
Joan learned about Bacardi Premium Portfolio at the event and noted: "Pineapple and rum reminds me of home"
You also celebrate your upbringing in your new line with Smart and Sexy, which is for women of all shapes and sizes.
“Being from a household that was so multicultural and having so many shade of colors and different sizes, my world was always so diverse. Being a minority, you already know what it feels like to be excluded so [with this line I] want to make sure that everybody feels comfortable. You don’t have to sacrifice good taste and good quality for good pricing.”
Have you seen a shift in the culture when it comes to diversity in the fashion and beauty industries?
“I feel like everyone’s aware of it, but I think it needs to be consistent. Brands shouldn’t do it because they think it’s a fad or think it’s cool. It’s all about inclusivity; let’s just do it. Do it because that’s your core value. Do it because you believe in it and know that people who buy your product are part of it. I think it just has to become so regular, where it’s part of everyday life and is just normal. It’s still an uphill battle.”
Do you think you’ve seen progress since you started modeling?
“For sure. People have been more open to individuality, and I think that’s beautiful. When I first started, I had curly hair, and I was always straightening it. I was like, ‘Come on guys, can I be me for me.’ So seeing that evolve and change, it’s so refreshing. It’s very encouraging to see different women that are celebrated and different cultures. It just sets a good tone for little girls growing up in different parts of the world, and they need somebody to familiarize themselves with.”