Joan Smalls Rodriguez (born July 11, 1988) is a Puerto Rican supermodel and actress. In 2011, she became the first Latina model to represent Estée Lauder cosmetics. In 2013, she entered Forbes magazine’s “World’s Highest-Paid Models” list for the first time, ranking at number eight with over $3 million in earnings. In January 2014, Smalls appeared on the “Return of the Supermodel” cover of American Elle. In 2012, Smalls was ranked the number #1 model in the world by Models.com; she is currently ranked as one of the New Supers and “Money Girls”.
Joan Smalls Rodríguez was born and raised in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, with her two sisters. Her father, Eric Smalls, is an accountant, and is West Indian from Saint Thomas. Smalls’ mother, Betzaida Rodríguez, is a social worker, who is Puerto Rican, and of Spanish and Taíno heritage. She also has distant Irish and Indian ancestry. Smalls initially became interested in modeling as a teenager, entering local competitions. She met with a New York agency who told her she would have to correct her teeth in order to succeed; during that time she went to college. Smalls graduated magna cum laude from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City to begin her modeling career.