an agent once told joan smalls a model can’t be black and have crooked teeth

The superstar model on the discrimination she’s faced over her career.

by Wendy Syfret
17 February 2017, 12:35pm

It's hard to imagine four time i-D cover girl Joan Smalls ever dealing with criticism for her looks. Over her almost decade long career she had fronted campaigns and graced catwalks for the world's most prestigious designers. But when she was 13, one agent clearly didn't comprehend her worth.

Speaking to ES Magazine about obstacles she's faced as a woman in colour in fashion, she revealed that when she was starting out an agent she met at a school modelling competition told her she needed to fix her teeth. The then teenager pointed out a lot of models had found success with a crooked smile and asked why she was different. They responded: "Well, Joan, because you're black, and that is already going to be a difficulty in this industry."

She eventually did get braces, but we doubt anything could have stopped her astronomic rise to the top of the industry. Last year Joan joined Hari Nef in sharing their experiences with discrimination across a conversation with Ivan Bart of IMG Models and Tim Blanks. She reflected that encounters like these are hardly a thing of the past, noting that when modelling for global campaigns with other models she is frequently excluded from group shots because clients are concerned that she won't sell.

Read: Joan Smalls shares her experiences and advice for the next generation of supermodels.


Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Amy Troost

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