The native Puerto Rican’s chocolate eyes and cheekbones that just won’t quit bring to mind Beverly Johnson and Liya Kebede. Meanwhile, her up-to-there legs and killer curves have drawn comparisons with Zoë Saldana. (“That happened a lot when Avatar came out,” she admits.) But when the folks at Estée Lauder noticed Smalls, they just saw pure, relatable beauty: The 21-year-old was named a spokesmodel for the brand last December.
The latest in a run of Chinese models to make it big on this side of the Pacific, the Wenzhou native has a rougher-edged, more otherworldly aesthetic than her countrywomen Liu Wen and Shu Pei Qin. Discovered four years ago in a modeling competition—“They’re very popular in China,” she explains—the 21-year-old is still trying to convince her family that she made the right career choice. “They think it’s too exhausting!”
Within weeks of moving to New York last year from her hometown of Matamata, New Zealand, the 17-year-old was cast in an astounding 60 fashion shows. “I did all four cities, and I kept a list and checked them off,” she says with a smile. The secret to her sudden success? Come-hither eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and a sculpted jawline that project a rocker-tough glamour despite her tender age.