2010 September 10
Giorgio Niro View Gallery
(NEW YORK) You don’t have to travel far to find modeling’s next superstar! Puerto Rico native Joan Smalls lives in Queens, has a psychology degree, and likes to kill it on the volleyball court. The Daily gave her a grilling between sets at Chelsea Piers.
There aren’t too many successful models from Puerto Rico.
It’s true! We’re quite a rare breed.
What was it like growing up there?
It’s a wonderful place. You can actually be a child! I grew up on a six-acre farm getting dirty and climbing trees. My parents didn’t have many things, but they encouraged me to embrace nature. My father brought home every animal you can think of! I had a pet pig, a dog, a cow, a duck...I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything.
How did you get into modeling?
I have no clue, actually. I thought I was going to be a veterinarian, because I loved animals, but then I realized I’d have to put them to sleep and deal with their organs. I wasn’t so into that part, so I changed careers.
Where were you discovered?
I would always watch Fashion TV and see the girls in Paris and try and imitate them. In Puerto Rico, I entered the Elite Model Look contest and lost, but one of the agents there remembered me. When I came up to New York in 2007, he was with a different agency. And that’s how we started!
Weren’t you in a Ricky Martin video?
Let’s keep that one under wraps, okay? Yes, it’s true. But that was a small gig in Puerto Rico. I know I don’t want to do any more music videos. They take too long to film. You’re also quite the athlete. I got into sports in high school. I play volleyball, basketball, and softball. I wasn’t that good at basketball, even though I was tall. Volleyball’s always been my best sport.
What do you like about it?
Spiking the ball so hard the other contenders can’t get it. I like psyching ’em out. The running and squatting is great exercise, too. Sounds like a fun way to vent! It is, but I actually got more relief from boxing. Boxing? Yeah, I spent a year training in Puerto Rico. And I was good! In fact, my trainer wanted me to compete, but I said, “You see this right here? [Points to nose] I need to keep it intact.”
Did you ever knock anybody out?
Nah, I was only training—shadowing, working with the speed bag, all that stuff. I refused to get hit by another person. I’m Puerto Rican, and we’re a little hotheaded. If I get hit, I’d take it personally, so I wanted to stay away from that. Plus, I have scoliosis, which is a deviation of the spine. I have more than 30 degrees of curvature. I didn’t want to risk my health.
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