It’s appropriate that I’m posting this video while I’m at Paris fashion week because it features one of my favorite French fashion persons, Garance Doré. (Even though we filmed it at New York fashion week.) It’s the finale of my L’Oreal-presented Hairspray Confessions, and in it I discuss some very important issues with the illustrator, photographer, writer and all around multitasking blogger Garance. What are these very important issues, you may ask? How to get photographed outside of a fashion show, the difference between Paris and New York style, and whether or not it’s culturally acceptable to put mayonnaise on French fries.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the fashion bubble. In the past three weeks, I’ve shuttled between New York, London and Milan for fashion shows and accessories appointments (and I’m flying to Paris in a matter of hours, but who’s counting?). While I have no problem admitting that I find it to be a gratifying experience, I can’t help but also have some American guilt that I’m missing out on the political free-for-all that will be the next election. Good thing, then, that for a couple of days when I was back in New York, my Tivo was full of The Daily Show episodes, which is my number one source of political news. (What? I think Jon Stewart is funny and handsome, and that’s how I like my news delivered.)
On a recent episode he went on off, and I mean went off, on Mitt Romney. Culturally, socially and even mathematically, he skewered the guy. It was all part of a segment called ‘Chaos on Bullshit Mountain,’ which I’ve posted above. I stumbled upon this at about the same time that I found an article in an old issue of the New York Post where Cindy Adams (Did you see it? It’s quite amusing) reported that Kato Kailin, the C-list actor who lived with OJ Simpson and helped acquit him from the charge of double murder in the most sensational trial of the 1990s, admitted Simpson’s guilt. I couldn’t help but think back to that time. I was so young, so impressionable, and so disillusioned with the American judicial system. What Jon Stewart is always preaching on his show, and indeed in this video, is that we should have more faith in our government, which is a lesson I learned from my father, who has had no faith in the government. He found the whole OJ Simpson trial a social injustice, and as his son, I felt the same way. I’ve had a shaky believe in the morals of all government officials ever since.
I believe Jon Stewart. I believe what he says here. And I actually do believe that Barack Obama has tried his best to instill the faith of the American people into his office. At the end of the day, what I want from a president is transparency and a genuine commitment to making the lives of we Americans better. Something without, as Stewart points out, a bunch of bullshit. (I also thought it was pretty epic how Obama got bin Laden. Have you read the New Yorker’s recounting of the raid? It’s even more amazing than Kato. And I will actually read that book that recounts it from the bigmouth Marine’s point of view too.) I understand the Republican point of view. I’m from Missouri, I have Republicans in my family. And while I want to pay less taxes, keep more of my hard earned money, and shoot guns in the air to proclaim my American nationalism, that Romney guy has become his own worst enemy. His own punching bag. I lost all hope when he went on television with that bad bronzing job.
All this isn’t to say that I’m so anti-Republican that I don’t mind a little Barack bashing too. Quite the contrary: I have my qualms with our current president too, and I enjoy a good leveling on both side of the isles. I’m not opposed to handsome, funny men criticizing Barack Obama. On Saturday night, Seth Meyers slated Obama on SNL’s Weekend Update with accurate, poignant observations about some of his political shortcoming. (I’d embed that, but it wasn’t on Youtube and I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out NBC’s website. But it’s there if you look for it.) That reminds me: Weekend Update is upping its coverage for the election. I’ll have to remember to set my Tivo so I can catch up when I’m back from Paris. But, until then, Happy Fashion Weeking.
Joan Smalls is big time now. I first met the Puerto Rican beauty after her first trip down the runway on a Givenchy couture exclusive, which, even though we didn’t know it at the time, was about to change her life. Riccardo Tisci’s casting transformed the lovely, funny little lady from a catalog girl to a supermodel powerhouse. Now she’s on the cover of magazines (like this issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK, which I interviewed her for), on the world’s best runways and even locked in a cosmetics contract with Estee Lauder. So, it was nice to catch up with this fabulous lady. Read our chat below.
At heart, Joan Smalls, the 24-year-old Puerto Rican supermodel on course for world domination (she is currently ranked the second most successful model in the world) is just a fun-loving island girl. In fact, when we meet for cranberry juice (she doesn’t drink alcohol) in New York’s Chelsea, the only piece of jewellery she wears is a gold necklace with ‘Joanji’ written in a graffiti script and diamonds. ‘It’s been my nickname since I was a little girl,’ says Smalls, whose skin is cinnamon-coloured and who smiles with bright, dancing eyes. ‘It’s what they still call me when I go home.’ Hers is a tale of triumph through determination.
Smalls grew up with her parents and two sisters on a small farm in the town of Hatillo. She entered local modelling competitions in Puerto Rico, but never won because, she says, ‘I was told I was too tall, too thin and too dark.’ Finally, she made it to New York where, armed with a list of the best agencies, she pounded the pavements. But Smalls found herself a frustrated catalogue model until Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci (now a close friend and diehard fan) booked her exclusively for his haute couture show in 2010. Campaigns for Gucci, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli, Lacoste and Chanel followed. Looking back to that Givenchy catwalk, Smalls says she knew that her life was about to change. ‘I was like, “This is my time. This is my moment to shine.”’ She’s still shining.
Derek Blasberg I want to start with something I don’t think you get enough recognition for: this girl can dance!
Joan Smalls Oh, yes she can! Being Puerto Rican, you come out
of the womb dancing! It’s a mix of so many cultures: African
tribal rhythm, the salsa, the reggaeton.
DB Did you go out dancing a lot when you were younger?
JS I went out all the time. My sister is older than me, but we look alike so she would give me her ID. This is back in Puerto Rico, so all the bouncers were my sister’s friends, and they would take care of me.
DB What was growing up in Puerto Rico like?
JS I grew up on a farm. We had our own banana-trees, mango-trees, orange-trees, avocado-trees, and so many different animals. Peacocks, chickens, ducks, pigs, dogs… There was this turkey
that would attack me when I was a kid. My father told me I had to stick up for myself,
so one day I picked up a rock and hit him with it.
DB That’s a good life lesson.
JS It was. That turkey got mean again, so eventually he went to the neighbours’ house –
and they ate him. That’s what happens when you mess with me!
DB What were you like as a little girl?
JS I was the tomboy. I was always getting messy, falling down and scratching my
knees. We sisters were always close-knit and protective of each other. It’s still like that
now, and I think that’s what keeps me strong in this business. It’s easy to get lost
in New York, but having my family is what kept me out of trouble. I always knew
I could call home.
DB That’s another thing that comes to mind when I think of you: determination.
JS This industry isn’t like others. If you go to school and study, you know you’ll get good grades and graduate. But with modelling you don’t entirely control your own destiny.
It’s up for grabs. You have no sense of security, and that can scare many people.
DB Have you had tough moments?
JS I have dealt with adversity from people I thought were on my side. Past agents, when
I would come to them for advice, would just tell me: ‘There’s only room for one.’
DB One what?
JS One girl of colour.
JS Yes. I had come for encouragement and I was given an excuse. It was disappointing. Little by little, my hopes were going down. I remember calling my dad after a tough time in Paris when I was going to casting after casting where they wouldn’t even look at my book. I was sitting on a bench on the Champs-Elysées, and starting to cry. I’m a strong person; I don’t like to show my emotions, especially to strangers on the street. My father told me to keep my head up high and do my best. And he was right.
DB What is it like to be the first Latina face at Estée Lauder?
JS Amazing. When I was starting, Estée Lauder was the pinnacle. It was far-fetched, but
it was my goal. And I got it.
DB What did you do when you got the call?
JS I was in Milan and I had just finished the Versace show and went back to my room.
Then my manager Kyle called me. He said: ‘Joan, I think it’s a go.’ I still get goosebumps when I think about it. I had 10 minutes to myself, and I broke
down. I prayed. I gave thanks to God. Then maybe I jumped on
the bed for a little bit.
DB I was with Naomi Campbell when it was announced that
you would be the first black girl in a Chanel campaign, and she
said she was going to email you.
JS She did! It was such a short, sweet message: ‘We are all proud
of you. We are all rooting for you.’ To have someone you look
up to and who has been a fashion icon since you were a child respond to what you do – it was a flattering moment.
DB Your career changed when you met Riccardo Tisci. How did that happen?
JS My agency sent Givenchy some pictures for a couture show,
and they said they’d like to see me. Before I went, my agent sat
me down and said: ‘This is a gamble. You’re going to put up your own money
[for the travel expenses] and think of it as an investment. It could work out, or it could
not.’ I had been waiting for that moment long enough, so I decided to do it. I went to
the casting, I walked for him, and as I left my Paris agent called me and said: ‘Joan,
don’t go to any more castings, because you’re on the Givenchy exclusive.’ It was one
of those moments when you just know your life is about to change.
DB He [Tisci] told me he went home to Puerto Rico with you.
JS Yes, he did. I remember my dad was talking to him so much; I had to move him away! He was just so happy to meet this man who had done so much for his daughter.
DB What’s the craziest job you’ve had?
JS Probably Chanel’s spring campaign. It was shot in Cap d’Antibes, and I had to pose
on this diving platform hung over the sea – at least I can swim. So Karl is taking the
pictures from a boat and I decide to go for it. I shove my leg through this armhole, and
I’m doing the splits in this Chanel dress, 20 metres over the water. But you know what?
I wanted this for so long – fear goes out the door.
DB What was the first thing you did when you started making some money?
JS Saving it.
DB You didn’t have one extravagance?
JS I wanted to give back to my parents because they had made so many sacrifices for my sisters and me. So I bought my father
a pick-up truck. My mum’s biggest dream was to remodel her
kitchen. When we were kids, she would save up money and then
an emergency would come up. Mothers always put themselves last. So last year, I got my mum the kitchen she always wanted.
DB What challenges are left for you?
JS I want a fragrance contract.
DB You want your own fragrance?
JS No, I meant a fragrance campaign. But now that you say it, you never know.
DB Do it. Here’s your tagline: Smell Small, Feel Big!
JS Can we copyright that right now? I want to be on Forbes’ list, too. I want to become a businesswoman. Look at Heidi Klum, Gisele Bündchen, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks. These women have made their own paths, starting from modelling.
DB Is that all?
JS I want to take over the world. I want people to look at me
and say: ‘Oh wow, that girl is doing something.’
I have nothing against Milan. I love Italians and Italian style as much as the next guy. But I will admit that I’ve always felt a little smug about skipping out on the Milan shows. I do the shows in New York and London, then basically sleep for five straight days, and then go to Paris refreshed and ready for action. (My friends who do London, Milan and Paris all in a row all hate me for this, by the way.) But for Katie Grand, I’ll make an exception. For the bunny loving and forever amusing Katie Grand, I’ll suck it up and come to Milan. I wasn’t the only one who made the pilgrimage either: More friends, including Giles, Jonathan Saunders, Pixie Geldolff and Dree Hemingway, all came over too. We were there to celebrate her new collection with Hogan. I cohosted the launch party with Hogan’s Andrea Della Valle and Katie in an old garden where Leonardo Da Vinci grew his vegetables and we had cocktails and danced until the wee hours.
I think I met my favorite new person in the whole world: Abbey Clancy. She gave a legendary performance on the dance floor and the things that came out of her mouth were fan-tas-tic. As was her husband, the footballer Peter Crouch, the blonde one in this photo with my Danish friend Anders
Anna Dello Russo, the queen of Italian style, with me on the dance floor. (That reminds me: Have you seen the video for her H+M collaboration? It’s ridiculous.)
While I love Milan and Paris as much as the next fashion fan, London is my favorite stop on the fashion week tour. There’s a few reasons for that, mind you: I can speak the language, I admire all the young talent that is brewing there, and when I was in college I lived in London so I have a pretty good lay of the land and a good mix of fashion and non-fashion friends there. I also have a ridiculous amount of fun in that town. (Maybe too much?)
On the Saturday night of LFW, I hosted a dinner with Harley Viera Newton for Issa, which is partly owned by my buddy Camilla al Fayed. She had the bright idea to distribute novelty sunglasses, which for some reason was, like, the most fun thing ever. Here, Dasha and Camilla prove it
A few of us were late to the Mary Katzareanu show, so the PR’s dragged us backstage to watch it from there. Which was actually really thrilling. Though I’m sure we were in the way and they wanted to kill us, it was fun to (briefly) enter the scrum
Jonathan Saunders had his fashion show’s afterparty at Bistroteque way out in East London. But it was worth the hike because he introduced me to the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen: a margarita fountain
Fashion week is a busy time for us fashion editors. But a lot of the time we’re busy waiting. Waiting for shows to start and waiting in traffic as we traverse Manhattan’s west side between shows. This season, we at Harper’s Bazaar decided to put some of that waiting time to good use and discuss some of our fashion week highlights.
First up? Joanna Hillman and Sam Broekema dishing about the black lights and kinky boots at Alexander Wang and my St. Louis sister Karlie Kloss
Then Kristina O’Neill talking about Marc Jacobs, our night out with Mariah Carey and my really, really good friend Ricky Martin
Anamaria Wilson and I talked about Michael Kors (she had the best line: “He put the mod in modern”) and Vera Wang, Rodarte and Oscar de la Renta
And finally, Glenda Bailey, the editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, summed up the whole season for us
I’ve always said there are two types of people in the world: Those who take pictures, and those who don’t. Lucky for me (and for this here blog), I’m the former. Have a gander at some of my personal snaps from New York fashion week!
No big deal. Me and Mariah Carey on the first night of fashion week. We stumbled into Mimi outside the Carlyle Hotel after the Proenza Schouler dinner and she gave us a private concert with the jazz band in the bar. No big deal. (For more on this epic evening, read THIS.)
Kate Bosworth and Olivier Theyskens backstage before the Theyskens Theory show. Kate and I were hard at work this season, doing a live feed commentary of Oli’s show. (If you missed it, you can still see it here: http://theyskenstheory.com/THE-SHOW/)
Fun fact: Aziz Ansari and I are college friends. We both went to NYU and did a year abroad together in London. Here’s the funniest friend I ever had with the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler at the Band of Outsiders show
Anna Wintour isn’t the only fashion fan in the fashion industry, and it’s an annual annoyance that the US Open is always on at the same time as fashion week. Though, I did manage to sneak out to see the mens doubles finals
Another month, another Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed in Harper’s Bazaar. For the September issue, I discussed three of my favorite things: the return of a rococo movement in fashion, the rising dominance of the house of Valentino and the first ever mens fashion week (well, weekend) in London. My earliest fashion memories are based around the ornate and gilded looks from the originally Gianni Versace; lest we forget, when he was murdered I made a memorial collage and hung it in my childhood bedrom. (Want to see it? I blogged about it HERE.) And of all the weddings to I went this summer, two of my favorite dresses were Valentino’s, including Leith Clark’s, which you can see HERE. And finally, after spending so much discussing a woman’s wardrobe, I was happy to spend some time looking at things for me. Not to mention some quality time with Prince Charles, Tom Ford and the forever handsome David Gandy. You can see more from that weekend HERE.
Pick up the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar today to read this story, as well as my cover story on Gwen Stefani and an intimate portrait of the new queen of the art scene, Dasha Zhukova!
PS. I’m working on next month’s column now, so leave any favorite fashionable moments in the comments! And to read my weekly Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed list, go to www.harpersbazaar.com/bestdressed
For anyone who follows me on Twitter, this won’t come as much as a confession: I’m obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race. A bunch of grown men fighting over sequins and Spandex, being dramatic and lip synching to gay pop anthems? What’s not to love? So, for the third installment of L’Oreal’s ‘Hairspray Confessions’ series, I wandering into Midtown to find RuPaul’s Drag Race’s bodacious and beautiful Carmen Carrera. We talked about her favorite icons, her favorite hairspray, and what every lady needs in her closet.
A high fashion makeout session: Alexander Wang snogging Carine Roitfeld at the Frick
Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, who came to New York only for one night to support Carine, and my date for the evening, Karen Elson
Me and my favorite entitled teenagers, Harry and Peter Brant, Jr.
The man, the icon: The New York Times’ Bill Cunningham
Carine’s lovely daughter, Julia, who’s continued the family dynasty with a fabulously dressed baby, Romy
One of my favorite things about New York Fashion Week is that, socially speaking, it’s all over the map. I mean that literally: In an average day, one can find themselves going uptown and downtown a dozen times. This was very apparent on my Saturday night, which started uptown at the Frick on the Upper East Side and ended downtown at a gay bar called Eastern Block in the East Village. But more than geographically, the spectrum of purpose was wide too: Uptown was a black tie gala in honor of Carine Roitfeld and the launch of her much anticipated fashion book, CR. It was a decadent affair: all champagne and supermodels in one of my favorite former residences in Manhattan. Following that fete, I was racing downtown with Karlie and Joan for a fundraiser for Barack Obama at a dodgy gay bar called Eastern Bloc. I’m not entirely sure how I got roped into it (actually, yes I do: my friend Marjorie Gublemann, an uptown transplant who has decided to launch a DJ career in her 40′s), but it was an interesting concept: Gogo boys for Obama. And it was fun!
Check back at the end of the week for more of my fashion week snaps!
Joan Smalls and Karlie Kloss getting a little political
Paper magazine’s Mr. Mickey, who helped organize the fete; Marjorie Gubelmann; me; and one of our cohosts, Sean Avery
Another couple of cohosts, Karen Elson and Cory Bond, with Nate Berkus
A couple of Obama’s boys: RJ King and Douglas Friedman
Check back at the end of the week for more of my fashion week snaps