Saturday, 23 March 2013

Personal #8

Reich, L., "Everyone's Talking About Joan", Elle UK (2011)

Right now, Joan Smalls is EVERYWHERE. On the international CATWALKS and in worldwide campaigns for uber-brands like Estee Lauder and GUCCI. And with good reason, as Lisa Reich discovers ...

Working with Gucci's creative director, Frida Giannini, was an incredible experience, says Joan. 'I come from a family of strong, vocal women and so I love working with strong, vocal women. Frida is like this. She is very hands-on, very passionate and has this amazing energy about her. And the clothes ... I mean, it's Gucci.' ...

'I grew up in Puerto Rico where they celebrate curves, hips and ass. I was tall and skinny and didn't fit in with what was deemed attractive. It didn't bother me, though. Even knowing I wasn't beautiful by those standards, I still wanted to be a model.' ...

The only time Joan had doubts about her chosen path was in Paris. 'It's a rite of passage for a model, the whole Paris thing. But that was the hardest part. At castings, most of the people - the editors and clients - weren't even looking at me. They'd flick through my book without really looking at it. Sometimes they'd be talking to someone else and they'd say "walk" like I was some kind of dog and then continue talking. So I'd walk up and down a few times before they'd shout out "next" and the next girl would come in.'

'Not being acknowledged, or thanked, or given a smile - that's tough. It's bad for your soul. I remember calling my dad, crying, and telling him that nobody had even said hello to me for over a week. I expected him to go, "Come home, honey", but he didn't. He told me to tough it out, keep my head up high and all of it would make me stronger. He told me this Spanish saying, which is: "You're not a $100 bill. Not everyone is going to like you".'

One of Joan's mentors is Riccardo Tisci, creative director at Givenchy. She met him two years ago - in Paris, ironically - and credits him as the man who gave her her big break. 'I love Riccardo. He's so passionate about everything, so hands-on and very caring.' ...

Of course, Joan herself is officially famous these days. Named one-to-watch, now the whole world is watching. She waves off talk of acting or singing and says that, for now, she's a model. 'I don't really see myself as a celebrity. I never came into this looking for fame. I don't live for that. I do look up to female models who have made it - Gisele, Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks. These are iconic women in fashion who have made it beyond modelling and I look up to that, aspire to it. They inspire me.'

'My family never encouraged me to try and be like anyone. If I ever said, "Wow, I'd like to be like her," they'd tell me to get over it. It's good to admire someone, but not to want to be them.'

'I think, especially as a woman, you need to strive for greatness beyond your imagination, because so many people will try and take that from you, try and curb that imagination - more than they will a man. I am confident enough in myself that I will never let anyone do that to me.'

'I never want to be at a point in my life, in my career, where I am just standing still. Women need ambition. It's what gives you the adrenaline to go forward and going forward gives you the confidence to go even further. If you stand still for too long, I think your confidence seeps away until maybe you don't feel so alive any more.' ...