Model Joan Smalls: Being black and Latin proved a double obstacle

Model Joan Smalls has said being both black and Latin meant she faced a double barrier to conquering the modelling industry.

She described her rise to becoming an Estee Lauder ambassador as a monumental achievement that put her home, the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, on the map.

In an interview with ES Magazine, the Victoria’s Secret model said: “Sometimes coming into the industry they sell you as just one thing, and meanwhile I feel like I’m multiple, and Estee Lauder really embraced that and I was so happy to be the first Latina Puerto Rican.”

Describing the obstacles she faced at the beginning of her career, she said she was shocked when she was advised to have her teeth straightened because being black was “already going to be a difficulty in the industry”.

Now 10 years into a career that has seen her model for Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Gucci, she said one of the highlights was the moment Beyonce told her to “be yourself”.

After starring in the singer’s 2013 video Yonce, she said: “That was empowering, to hear another woman say that to you.

“She’s not restricting of anybody… and I think that’s beautiful to celebrate other women.”

Explaining her determination to succeed in the industry, she added: “I always viewed it as an experience and an opportunity to, one, make money and, two, use what God gave me and enjoy what I have around me and make the most out of it.”

:: Read the full interview in this week’s issue of ES magazine, out now.

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