(Photo: Porter Magazine, Summer 2015)
Joan Smalls is so gracefully gorgeous, it always amazes us when Black models like her open up about encountering unnecessary obstacles in the fashion industry. Stories of racism and designers who refuse to give Black models a chance is no longer breaking news, but it is still a topic that needs to be addressed until brands finally give all qualified models a fair chance regardless of race.
In her cover story for Porter magazine, Smalls shares her own stories of racism and busting through closed doors in order to get recognized and taken seriously.
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“It was really easy for some girls to get booked automatically into an agency, but I had to go to appointment after appointment and a gazillion castings, and sometimes no one looked at me at all,” the Puerto Rican model said. “I would cry out of frustration because I didn’t understand why. I didn’t want to quit. I’m determined. That’s the fuel for my fire. I’m like, ‘I’m going to show you. Sooner or later you’ll see what happens when you don’t believe in someone.’”
While it would have been world’s easier to have been given a fair chance earlier on, Smalls turned this injustice into her driving force. Since then, she’s gone on to work for top brands like Estée Lauder, Balmain, Gucci, Chanel, Givenchy, and H&M and often breaking ground as their first Puerto Rican model to be the face of their advertising campaigns.
“I’m not just one thing: I’m Black, I’m Latina,” Smalls said about her look. “It’s cool that people can see that a person doesn’t fit into a box and isn’t just a category. That’s the message I always try to push out there.”
To read her entire interview, grab a copy of Porter's Summer Escapes issue on newsstands now.
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