Beauty & Body Image

Model Joan Smalls: “Beauty is universal”

187923111_10 - Model Joan Smalls: "Beauty is universal"

On the fashion industry’s lack of diversity:

“People hide behind the word aesthetic. 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.”

… says 25 year-old Puerto Rican fashion model.

See many more pictures of Joan next!


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  • Mika

    She is gorgeous! I cant tell her ethnicity though, anyone knows?

    • clea

      She’s Puerto Rican.

      • Magda

        I would have said African or something like that.
        Beautiful skin.

      • Simone Fortune

        That’s her nationality not her ethnicity. Most Puerto Ricans are of mixed race but its certain that she has African blood

        • Gee

          Lol, her nationality is Puerto Rican. You’ve kinda misunderstood the difference between nationality and ethnicity 😉
          She looks great on these photographs.

          • Simone Fortune

            That’s exactly what i said. i was replying to Clea, who responded to Mika that Joan’s ethnicity was Puerto Rican

      • jiffy

        she’s a puerto rican of African descent. possible to be both

  • HB

    I’ve never seen her before, but she is fabulous! She’s very cat-like. I like her statement, too. Obviously those doors are open for her, but it’s cool that she’d speak out in favor of other types.

    She’s very small.

  • Debbs

    Killer body and she is stunning! I thought she looked too harsh in that last photo but in the others she looks amazing.

  • Indigo

    A beautiful girl who clearly has a good head on her shoulders.

  • lc

    Well, I really don’t find her beautiful, tbh. And I can’t believe she’s 25, I would have thought she was much older than that.

    • cara

      my thoughts exactly!

  • Zoe

    Not a fan of the excessively high cut of some of the underwear she’s modelling, but I think her body is amazing and she looks especially gorgeous in the green dress! 🙂

    I kind of agree with what she’s saying about a lack of diversity in the fashion industry- while I think it’s great that a lot of different ethnicities are being increasingly featured in fashion, I’d like to see specific ethnic ‘features’ being embraced as well.

    For example, I’d love to see VS use a black model maybe with an afro hair texture, as opposed to their constant use of models with long, straight, silky hair (even though this is beautiful.) From my observation, the girls who ultimately make the ‘Angel’ status from are the blond-haired, blue-eyed girls- it would be nice to see maybe a beautiful redhead like Cintia Dicker, or a chinese/Latina girl become an Angel. 🙂

    I understand that VS is not the be-all-and-end-all of fashion, but I’m just using them as an example! 🙂

    • lc

      I would love if Cintia Dicker became an Angel! Such a beautiful redhead, I have never seen them use one before either. She has a super pear shaped body that none of the other Angels quite have, so that would bring some more diversity too I guess.

      • I love Cintia too, the problem with her for me, though, as a fellow redhead, is that she is always pictured tanned. I don’t know if its natural or spray-on, but nearly all redheads do not tan, so it kind of sends the message that our super fair skin is not beautiful. I would be happier if they found a very pale redhead! though she is gorgeous, of course

      • iana

        I don’t know of many guys that think Cintia Dicker is very sexy, and VS also wants to appeal to men buying for their girlfriends/wives.

        • lc

          Really? Well, that’s surprising seeing as she’s mostly a Sports Illustrated bikini model, and their target audience is men, men, and men.

          • iana

            Maybe she’s more popular than I think, but I was just speaking from personal experience with the men in my class who were talking about Cintia and they were saying nasty things like “she’s a toothpick with autism face” etc. Maybe they were just being a bunch of jerks that day, but not one of them thought she had an attractive face. Cara Delevigne also: not popular with the menfolk from what I can tell.

          • lc

            Wow! Yeah they were being jerks, mostly she gets a good reception from male audiences. Cara Delevigne, though, I agree with you, most men do not find her “sexy” or whatever.

        • liam

          i don’t know many guys who find alessandra ambrosio sexy, but she’s an vs angel…

          • Mia

            lmao so true Liam. I think the vs angels are meant to appeal to women anyway. In fact, I think the vs angels would look quite different if they were chosen to appeal to men :-/

          • lc

            I’ve heard men say that Alessandra was hot…my two brothers (27 and 18), for starters, think all the current Angels are; and I’ve seen it said on forums before…

          • liam

            she’s not my cup of tea. don’t find her face pretty and she looks unhealthy…too thin. beauty is in the eye of the beholder :)! and it’s a nice thing.

    • Isabel

      Many Latina’s have been angeles or modeled for VS at some point in their careers: Alessandra Ambrosio, Adriana Lima, Anna Hickman, Gisele Bundchen, Ana Beatriz Barros and many more. Also “latina” is not a race, you cannot tell someone’s a latina unless they start speaking spanish or portuguese.

      In any case, the blue eyed blonde haired angel is a recent trend. Most angels I know were dark.

      • Zoe

        Apologies- I wasn’t stating that Latina was a race- I was just referring to introducing more models who look ‘stereotypically’ Latina- for example, I can’t think of any models, but women who to me ‘look’ Latina are Eva Longoria or Salma Hayek, in the sense that, while they’re still in a sense fair-skinned, they have a distinctly different aesthetic from most of the more ‘popular’ vs models e.g. Candice, Lily, Erin etc. 🙂

        I can probably think of a few models current ‘dark’ (haired) models, but I think the more popular ones are still majority are still blonde, blue-eyed beauties, and like I previously mentioned, to my knowledge, there’s a complete absence of redheads! I appreciate that redheads are a rare find, but Cintia would be a good start! 🙂

  • I think she’s right – but it needs to extend beyond skin tone to body shape too and also height to some extent. I think variations in skin tone and ethnic background are more common in fashion than different body shapes and weights are.
    Also, she’s very striking – don’t think I’ve seen her before though.

    • anonymous

      You just want them all to look exactly like you. Since you seem to think you are better than everyone else.

  • Hazal

    She is very beautiful but looks much older imo.

    The panties she wore at the VS show remind me of Miley Cyrus, since you can almost see her crotch.

  • Beauty IS universal, and I’m all for diversity of all kinds in modeling and everywhere else, but I don’t think HER beauty is universal. She’s striking, but she has a very specific, quite shocking, almost mannish look, so if I were a designer I don’t think I’d want her modeling my clothes. But perhaps she’s not talking about herself 🙂

    Also, although she’s obviously not white, she has the same parted-in-the-middle, wavy hair, no bust or butt, etc, that every other VS model has, so I don’t know if I’d call that a win for diversity.

    • Quis ut Deus

      The androgynous look = fierce, according to many designers

  • Isabel

    I don’t find her beautiful, although I like her body, at leat what has been shown here.
    Her quote can be miseading. She says we need diversity but then says that beauty is universal. I know she meant that beauty can come in different skin colors and features, but universality of beauty refers that there’s just one standard that doesn’t differ from culture to culture.

    • isabel


    • Mocha

      Yeah, I was like wait, that statement is weirdly contradictory

  • DD

    Does no one else find the first and last two photos of this girl frightening?? She looks incredibly emaciated…

    • Jennifer

      I agree. I love thin, but this is too thin. She looks like a walking skeleton to me. Surprised that 95% of comments here are praising her for having a fantastic body.

      • lc

        Skeleton? Frightening? I just don’t see that. Yeah, she is thin but not frighteningly so. She doesn’t exactly look like a famine victim or anything.

        • anonymous

          Agree lc, she looks totally healthy. I somethings wonder about the comments I read on this site.

      • GlamDoll

        She doesn’t look too thin because she’s majority muscle with no fat. She looks really strong.

    • Lau

      Way too thin for my taste as well… especialy on the same two pictures.

    • Annie

      The only reason you are perceiving her as a “skeleton” is her proportionally thin arms and face. Imagine the same girl with plumper arms and face and you would be praising her for being “curvy”. This is something entirely genetic – however much weight I gain literally zero of it goes to my arms. lower legs or face, which causes people to perceive me as “sooo skinny needs to eat a sandwich” even when that is faaar from the case. So should I become obese just to satisfy idiots so they don’t think I’m “too skinny”? Different people’s bodies work differently to yours you just have to get that – Joan looks great and very healthy for *her particular* body type, you may very well be too thin at the same bmi.

  • Dead_Sarah

    I thought fashion industry is already accepting all kinds of diverse folks and nobody cares what color you are if you fit their universal VS standard. Hmm, weird.

  • SA girl

    Excellent quotation, extremely stunning model! I do see a move towards employing more models of colour. The first faces of colour I noticed were back in the 90s, namely the infamous beauties Iman and Naomi Campbell. It is also good to see Asian models on the increase too…

    • DD

      I realize Naomi Campbell had narcotics and anger issues, but I don’t think that would render her infamous. And Iman, I’ve no inclination as to why you labelled her infamous at all…

      • maybe english is not her first language?

        • SA girl

          Quite right. I meant ‘famous’! Sorry about that ladies. My first language is Afrikaans..

      • SA girl

        Pardon, my error. Meant ‘famous’.. Afrikaans (home language). English (second language). Jammer dat ek die verkeerde woord ingeskryf (which means ‘sorry I typed the wrong word). I love these online forums, improves my english..

  • Nicole

    Love her skin tone and her legs.

  • liss

    She´s stunning and smart, I like her

  • aline

    I am in love with her ever since I first saw her but I agree she looks kinda older than she actually is.

  • iana

    She looks her best in the white jumpsuit. In a lot of the pics (and especially the VS show) she looks terribly and unnaturally thin in the upper body. I guess she has to diet hard to keep her lower body slim, but in the top picture the bones jutting out from her chest are kind of unsettling to look at. Just IMO.

  • Leighton

    She is very thin, but healthy looking in my opinion.
    And that face… urgg I’m in love !

  • Kat Lindsey

    She’s very pretty. I love her cheekbones and her eyes, they’re gorgeous.

  • jkm

    there is nothing special about her at all. She looks like every other girl, just a normal person you would see at the mall.

  • retrobanana

    joan smalls is one of my fave models of the moment I follow her on instagram and she seems so fun and nice and sweet and beautiful beyond words I love her quote….I think she considers her self black and latin….
    I find her very beautiful

  • liam

    nothing special. she looks older than 25.

  • Lau

    There really is a simple way of knowing if you are too thin. Even if your BMI is lower than 18.5, you can still be healthy if you eat (and drink) healthy and you’ve still got your period. If you don’t, 90 % chance is you just need to gain some weight.

  • Mia

    LOL @ the picture of her and the guy. What the hell is that guy wearing?

  • RHM

    She looks like Beyonce in some of the pictures

  • Roxy Lowe

    What a body!!! 🙂

  • Winnie

    she’s gorgeous, but she’s always bored me tbh. as far as black models go, i prefer Jourdan Dunne, Jasmine Tookes, and Lais Ribeiro right now

  • Juju

    I don’t get her for VS…she always strikes me as fierce but not feminine or sexy (imo).

  • EllaJames

    She could be lying about her age. I have a girlfriend who models and in the magazine article interview she told the, she was 22, and they published it as such. She was 25 at the time. She lied about her age to agencies and fashion show directors all the time. She was trying to break into the industry rather late and got her best modeling jobs well into her late 20’s to 30’s.