ELLE Names Joan Smalls The New Supermodel
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Unknown1 of 28
True Colors2 of 28
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."
Bright Future3 of 28
How her modeling career started: "I came to New York with a dream. I came to do what I saw girls doing in campaigns, in editorials—great things, challenging things."
Her motivations to eventually get into acting: "I want to be clear that I don't want to act just because it's the typical move for a model. My desire comes from a place of wanting to entertain people on a different level."
Model Citizen4 of 28
Estée Lauder's global creative director Richard Ferretti on Smalls: "The word 'supermodel' is overused, but if there is any woman of our generation who deserves the title, it's Joan. She has the perfect face."
See Joan Smalls' childhood photos and more here, and check out the January issue of ELLE, on newsstands Dec. 17. And keep clicking to see the model's style evolution over the years.
Child's Play5 of 28
The future supermodel poses in a field of roses with her best accessory—a million-dollar smile.
So Snaky6 of 28
Attending a party in New York in 2009, Smalls punches up simple basics, like a T-shirt and leather jacket, with a snake-print mini.
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Blue Crush7 of 28
Smalls rocks a drape-y cocktail dress and lighter brows at a Roberto Cavalli party back in 2010.
Jean Queen8 of 28
At the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of The Bully Project back in 2011, a fresh-faced Smalls dresses down a sheer top and pleated skirt with a classic jean jacket.
Take Shape9 of 28
The model abandons her usual fluid silhouettes in favor of a structured Tom Ford dress at a Museum of Modern Art benefit.
Top Tier10 of 28
At the 2012 CFDA Awards, the model styles a Michael Kors flamenco-inspired dress with gold accents, like a cuff bracelet and ankle-strap heels.
Bedroom Attire11 of 28
Smalls keeps it romantic in a Givenchy lingerie-inspired cami, satin pants, and soft wavy hair at the 9th Annual Style Awards.
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Slouch Around12 of 28
At the Maison Martin Margiela and H&M launch party, the stunner pairs a tank top with slouchy harem shorts, both from the collaboration.
Gray Matter13 of 28
Leave it to Smalls to make a romper look elegant. The model pairs Chanel's tweed jumpsuit with strappy sandals and a bold red lip at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Punk Out14 of 28
Posing with Tom Ford at the Met Ball back in May, Smalls wears one of the designer's embroidered creations along with heavy eyeliner to emphasize this year's punk theme.
Lace Case15 of 28
The Victoria Secret model's plunging Emilio Pucci gown—coupled with her then-new ombre locks—was a show-stopper at the Cleopatra premiere at Cannes.
Flower Girl16 of 28
Smalls, known for embracing edgy designers, wears Givenchy's avant-garde gown for amfAR's annual Cinema Against AIDS event in France.
White Swan17 of 28
The runway veteran opts for ballerina-like elegance in a Givenchy lace gown and pulled-back bun at this year's CFDA Fashion Awards.
Sheer Genius18 of 28
Thanks to sheer sleeves and intricate beading, Smalls' little black dress was far from boring, and a stylish choice for The Fashion Insitute of Technology's benefit gala earlier this year.
Top That19 of 28
The model's take on the crop-top trend? A snug tank top teamed with high-waisted trousers, a cool daytime look that doesn't reveal too much.
Leg Up20 of 28
To accentuate her long legs, the model pairs a leather Viktor & Rolf mini with Casedei bondage boots at this year's MTV Video Music Awards.
Good Sport21 of 28
At DKNY's 25th birthday bash, Smalls plays up the athletic vibe in the brand's sports bra, boy shorts and mesh skirt, but adds pointy-toe pumps for a touch of sophistication.
In Vested22 of 28
A shrunken leather vest instantly toughens up Smalls' figure-hugging dress at a private dinner in New York.
Just for Kicks23 of 28
In between shows during New York Fashion Week, we spotted the model working this year's neon trend in a graphic T-shirt and high-top sneakers.
Lavender Fields24 of 28
At an Estée Lauder fragrance launch party, Smalls lends edge to her pretty Prabal Gurung dress with a sleek ponytail and chunky Vivienne Westwood heels.
Leather Weather25 of 28
The model creatively tops a camo shirt with a leather tee at Milan Fashion Week, completing the eclectic look with denim cut-offs and patent loafers.
Animal Attraction26 of 28
Snapped on the street during Paris Fashion Week, Smalls layers a fashion-forward black holster vest over a leopard-print blouse.
Jump Start27 of 28
At a fashion event in New York, the Puerto Rican stunner contrasts her sleek Alexander Wang jumpsuit with chunky heels.
In the Army28 of 28
Wearing an asymmetrical Prabal Gurung dress, Smalls proves that even army green can look sexy and feminine.