Joan Smalls at the 2013 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on November 13, 2013 in New York City.Getty Images
Joan Smalls at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show hair and make-up room on November 13, 2013 in New York City.Getty Images
Joan Smalls at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on November 13, 2013 in New York City.Getty Images
The Puerto Rico-born woman is only 25, but the international buzz about her just keeps getting louder, and shows no sign of abating.
Joan Smalls Rodriguez, born and raised in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, is the January cover of Elle Magazine, which has dubbed her no less than "the planet's most perfect face."
By putting Smalls Rodriguez on its cover, Elle shifted from the usual movie star in favor of a supermodel.
The magazine said Smalls Rodriguez possesses a "flawless, unequivocal beauty."
This is an important moment for a model, to be sure, but Smalls Rodriguez has been breaking barriers and reaching milestones for a few years.
Forbes Magazine ranked her No. 8 in its 2013 list of the world’s highest paid models – she raked in $3.5 million. She ranked No. 1 in Models.com last fall, an important site in the industry. And she was the first Latina to be the face of a worldwide Estee Lauder campaign.
“The word supermodel is overused, but if there is any woman of our generation who deserves the title, it’s Joan,” Estée Lauder's Richard Ferretti said about Smalls Rodriguez to Elle. “She has the perfect face.”
A CNN.com story in 2012 said that Smalls Rodriguez left Puerto Rico at the age of 19 to chase her modeling dreams. She started out doing stints for department store catalogues.
She also went to casting calls in combat boots when she was making the trip from Queens to Manhattan, according to CNN.com. Getting around the city, rushing from casting call to casting call, was just easier in casual footwear, she said.
Eventually her rising success, and income, allowed for easier travel and better shoes.
A pivotal moment in her career came when she started working with IMG's Kyle Hager, and started getting high-profile jobs. One important one was being the exclusive model for Ricardo Tischi's Givenchy 2010 Couture Show in January 2010.
"When you want something so bad and when something great happens, I think it's instinct that you say, this is gonna be the moment that's gonna change everything. Everybody is gonna see me a different way," she said, according to the CNN interview. "I thank Kyle every day because he made such a big difference in my career and in my life."
Smalls Rodriguez is not shy about pointing out the lack of diversity in her industry.
"People hide behind the word aesthetic," she is quoted as telling Elle. "They say, 'Well, it's just that designer's aesthetic.' But when you see 18 seasons in a row and not one single model outside a certain skin color…? There are people in the industry who are advocates, who support diversity. And there are people who do not. I don't get it. Beauty is universal. These doors have to open."