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.
Time for another gem from The Daily's inaugural Hollywood Issue that you might've missed in the Oscars fracas and tail end of Paris Fashion Week. If you dream of conquering the world’s...
Since opening its doors a year ago, haute modeling agency The Society has built an impressive roster of in-demand talent like Lindsey Wixson, Adriana Lima, and Liu Wen. The Daily dropped...
When Glamour sought out a new design guru to spruce up its look in October, just a year and a half after a full-on revamp, Cindi (and Anna) poached ELLE’s longtime design director...