Puerto Rican Beauty, New Face of Estee Lauder

In only four years, Joan Smalls has become the It girl of the modeling world. From Vogue magazine editorials, to print ads to runways to the biggest prize of all: landing the contract as the new face of Estee Lauder’s Global Campaign.

Smalls debuted as the exclusive model in Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy couture presentation and walked the runways of every major designer – an unbelievable 40 shows in her first season — and was named Paris Fashion Week’s top model last year. She has been photographed by Mario Testino and Steven Meisel and was the face of several high-end campaigns including Ralph Lauren, The Gap, Ports 1961, Coach, Gucci and Givenchy.

The 5’ 10” beauty was born in Puerto Rico and grew up on a six-acre farm where her pets included a pig, a dog, a duck and a cow. That simple, wholesome, happy upbringing forged her personality – her signature combination of enthusiasm, charm and humility. Her exotic yet versatile looks come from African, Spanish, Taino Indian, Irish and Hindu descent.

Smalls knew from the age of five that she wanted to become a model. However, it wasn’t until after she graduated Magna Cum Laude from the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology – finished in a mere two and a half years — that she moved to New York City. She was immediately signed by a top modeling agency.

I met Joan Smalls during an editors press luncheon at Casa Tua on South Beach. We were all delighted with her – no diva attitude, just a lovely, very sharp, often giggly girl who still can’t believe her good fortune!

DAISY: What was your first interesting experience once you were signed by Estee Lauder?

SMALLS: Going on a PR trip to Barcelona with company executives. You realize you’re not just a pretty face, that you also have a voice and they want to get to know you and that you also represent an important brand as a spokesmodel.

DAISY: How does it make you feel to be the first Latina for Estee Lauder and what do you bring to the table because of your heritage?

SMALLS: Very proud to have the title! In this position, you’re here to be a role model to represent Latinas but we are all beautiful regardless of what your background is. We have warmth and passion because we come from warm countries. But hopefully people can see my inner heart through my images.

DAISY: How much pressure do you feel now to be a role model not just to young Hispanics but to other girls around the world as well?

SMALLS: (Smiles) Not pressure, it’s a challenge and I like challenges! You grow as a model and with this company, you’re not a just face, you can express yourself. That’s something very beautiful and I like that younger women from different ethnicities can see that. We have to make personal appearances at stores to meet and interact with our loyal customers. We’re breaking different barriers!

DAISY: What was the process like?

SMALLS: I was doing fashion shows, shooting with the best photographers in the industry. The Estee Lauder executives saw the demand for me in different editorials and noticed! I went to a meeting with Aerin Lauder and everybody [in the company] was there. (Laughs) It was overwhelming, lots of questions, but they were so nice and welcoming… Then I did some test shoots and the rest is history!

DAISY: How do you think the beauty industry demographics have changed that now you can be the face of this global campaign?

SMALLS: Estee Lauder knows that all ethnic backgrounds are beautiful and should be celebrated. That’s why they have a reputation for setting the blueprint where beauty is celebrated.

DAISY: Where were you when you got the news that you were the new face of Estee Lauder?

SMALLS: In Milan working! We were waiting for weeks then my manager called me! I started crying and thanking God then started jumping up and down on the bed like a little kid! And I was so grateful! I had just switched agencies and was looking for that hope again to be determined and to follow your dreams.

DAISY: How will you avoid making terrible blunders like some famous models before you have done very publicly?

SMALLS: It begins with the group of people you surround yourself with. They should be positive people who have your best interest in mind and who guide you in the right direction. Whatever you do in life you must remain focused. If you have determination and passion, you will attain whatever you want. When you see models like Giselle or Heidi, they understood that this is business and it’s professional like any other. You have to take care of yourself because your image is your career. Once that’s clear, it will take you far!

Daisy Olivera


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