Joan Smalls: Woman of Steel

Barnaby Roper Sets Fashion's Latina Heroine into a Spin

Puerto Rican supermodel Joan Smalls is transformed into a high-fashion superwoman in today’s exhilarating short by director Barnaby Roper. “I was playing around with the fact that the summer brings blockbusters. This year this includes Man of Steel, which is being released the same week as this film,” explains Roper of the video that employs the New York-based filmmaker’s signature technical wizardry. “I tried to show a strong individual female character and Joan was the perfect person—she gives really strong poses.” Stylist Keegan Singh built up Smalls’ heroic look by plundering designers including Balmain, Rodarte and Altuzara for powerful silhouettes and then finished the looks off with piles of tough jewelry from Eddie Borgo. Smalls, who modeled in New York for three years before her big break walking exclusively for Ricardo Tischi’s Givenchy couture show in 2009, has become an industry favorite featuring in cover stories for W magazine as well as various editions of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and fronting campaigns for Gucci, Stella McCartney and Estée Lauder who, in 2011, made her their first Latina face. 

(Read More)

Conversations (8)

  • toujourcouture
    Totally awesome...I would love to collaborate with Mr. Roper for my brand.
  • Sydneygt
    I was fortunate to meet Joan small in a non conventional way - on the street, while walking with my friends in NYC. She was bright, kind and able to hold her own - While walking by herself. The first thing we talked about was we were both Puerto Rican - Dark Negra Latinos.., She identified with her culture and spoke in her native first language. As for Super Model, she is definitely a Great Model - A Amazing model of today! She is a super model because she is transformative! from Gap to Gucci to Fendi to H&M ads, thats a Fierce MODEL.
  • Sellés Domínguez
    ...and the rite becomes myth and vice versa ... The rule has been confirmed by the exception. AMAZING!
  • Lisbeth1980
    oh I forgot to mention the most important thing the fashion film is AMAZING, she killed it!!!
  • Lisbeth1980
    Dear Bon Vivant, She is not black, you fool she is Puerto Rican and proud of it. She states that in many of her interviews, if you didn't know Puerto Rican's are not only light, they can be brown as well, it's a skin color. She is a LATINA point blank period not African American or African get over it. LC
  • luanne41
    Can you please just enjoy the video and article? "race mentioned three times?" Please educate yourself. Being Puerto Rican is not a race. Just like being an American isn't a race. Being Latino is not a race. There are about 19 Latin American countries. In Latin America there are Latinos who White, Black, Amerindian, Mestizo, Mulatto and many other combinations . Joan is a beautiful multi-racial women who embraces all that she is and like many of us is proud and identifies with her rich culture and country. A proud Latina. Proud Puerto Rican women. Joan represents us very well. We're proud of her, here in Puerto Rico. Most people in latin america are mixed to a degree. Please do some traveling. We in the Latin community don't suffer from the 'One Drop Rule'. Jim Crow Laws don't apply. Our Countries, Nationalities and Cultures come first.
  • bon vivant
    Why is her race mentioned three times? Meanwhile, you all [conveniently] forgot to mention that she is half-Black. If race distinction is so critical to your pieces that it needs to be mentioned three times, please get it right.
    • Posted By bon vivant
    • June 12, 2013 at 12:35PM
    • Share Comment:
  • Franco De Rose
    Super model?

Add A Comment

You must be logged in to comment

  • On Replay
    On Replay

    The Future Catwalk

    Mirte Maas Walks an Infinite Runway in Barnaby Roper's New Interactive Story

    Your keystrokes guide Mirte Maas’ epic strides through a series of psychedelic landscapes in Barnaby Roper’s user-controlled fashion experience. As the Dutch model marches, new digital sound, image and effects create 26 distinct and immersive environments, from a high-definition forest and a space-age desert landscape to kaleidoscopic moving collages. Each one corresponds to its own letter on your laptop or desktop keyboard, while mobile device users can enjoy the journey in a specially tailored short film. The innovative piece marks a new level of complexity for the New Yorkbased director, whose previous experiment on NOWNESS saw model Iris Strubegger multiply on screen as visitors’ commands combined to form a dark visual symphony. To create the mesmerizingly addictive Mirte, Future Catwalk, Roper collaborated with Tristan Bechet to compose a hypnotic, driving score that morphs to keep time to Maas’ motion. The model kept a steady pace on a treadmill for the better part of two shooting days, wearing boots by Rick Owens paired with pieces from Givenchy and Christopher Kane by stylist Tony Irvine. “I like the playfulness and the air of discovery; I like that the viewer has the choice and that I am not dictating to them how they should view it,” says Roper. “Most of all, I like the possibilities of where interactivity could and will go in the future.”


    Time spent shooting: 

    2 days.

    Time spent on treadmill: 

    10 hours.


    Number of outfit changes: 



    Time spent in post-production: 

    2 months.

    Number of programmers: 


    Lines of code: 



    Keyboard letter with fewest steps: 

    N (1.8).

    Keyboard letter with most steps: 

    S (hundreds).

    Total steps visible (excluding “S”): 


    Credits: 1. Leather dress by Givenchy, skirt by Ann Demeulemeester, top and boots by Rick Owens, cape by Araks; 2. Coat, dress and boots by Rick Owens; 3. Leather dress by Givenchy, hooded top by Ann Demeulemeester; 4. Hat and mask by Rick Owens; 5. Top, dress and boots by Rick Owens; 6. Dress and boots by Rick Owens
    (Read More)

    Cass Bird x Daria Werbowy

    The Versatile Supermodel Stars in a Gender-Bending Animated Short

    Daria Werbowy morphs from skater to rocker, businessman to dancer as she shape-shifts through an array of different characters in this stop-motion animation by photographer Cass Bird. The pair were inspired by a series of black-and-white cut-out collages made in the early 70s by Cindy Sherman, an artist famed for her fascination with identity and gender. “I’ve always been interested in how clothes can override our identity,” says Bird from her home in Brooklyn. “How they can change our posture completely, or even how we feel about our sexuality.” Since their first collaboration over a decade ago Bird and the Ukrainian-Canadian Werbowy have traveled the world capturing some of the most distinctive images of the chameleonic model. Bird is celebrated for her spontaneous and intimate photographs of celebrities including Cate Blanchett and Viggo Mortensen, as well as personal projects like recent monograph Rewilding, which portrayed androgynous girls in the Tennessee wilderness. She brought a similar uninhibited freedom to this latest session with her close friend Werbowy, who holds the record for opening and closing the most runway shows in a fashion season and has graced the pages of everything from Vogue to V magazine to the Pirelli Calendar. “I laughed the whole way through it,” says Bird. “I’m always taken with Daria’s physical range. She pushes herself physically and emotionally and has this God-given gift to be able to channel masculine and feminine energy quite genuinely.”

    (Read More)

Previously In fashion

View Full fashion Archive