Quick Quotes. Joan Smalls on Race in the Fashion Industry.

Michael Thompson, Elle Magazine, Joan Smalls, Black Fashion Models

“I made a list of agencies and went to all the open calls. One of the agents looked me over and said, ‘Joan, I’d love to represent you, I think you’re great, but you have to straighten your teeth.’ ” She was perplexed. “Why do I have to straighten my teeth?” she asked. “I see models with crooked teeth all the time.” The agent looked her square in the face: “Joan, those models are Caucasian, and you’re not. You’re a black model. And it’s already a challenge.”

“I wasn’t bothered by it,” she says. “I appreciate honesty. I don’t like people beating around the bush. I thought, You know what? I’m going to take that as constructive criticism. I’m going to take my ass back to Puerto Rico, straighten my teeth, and come back.” – Joan Smalls in Elle Magazine. (image credit: Joan Smalls by Michael Thompson for Elle Magazine).