At this year’s ESSENCE Fest we got the chance to catch up with supermodel Joan Smalls at the unveiling of her new lingerie collection Smart and Sexy Intimates!

Don't worry, beach strappy #JScollection #BikiniOfTheWeek

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The line is inclusive and was made with women of all shapes and sizes in mind. It’s also available in various styles and colors. We spoke with Smalls and discussed her newly launched brand and how she’s making women feel confident, sexy and empowered.

Keep scrolling to catch all of her gems!

ESSENCE: So tell us, is this your first ESSENCE Fest?

Joan Smalls: Yes, it is! Yesterday we were able to walk around Bourbon Street and feel the whole crowd, it was super packed.

ESSENCE: What inspired you to create Smart and Sexy Intimates?

Smalls: My inspiration was basically taking fashion that I’m surrounded with and luxury brands and making it affordable. Because you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good. This line is so affordable and the ranges go from tiny to bigger sizes. I understand that a women’s body comes in different shapes. 

ESSENCE: When women put on your pieces how do you want them to feel?

Smalls: I want them to embrace themselves for who they are and to wear the pieces eclectically. I just want them to feel empowered and to know it was created by me. 

ESSENCE: What is it like being surrounded by so many women of color here at ESSENCE Fest?

Smalls: I feel so proud, we’re not used to being in a room filled with so much diversity. In one room there are so many beautiful black women, different hairstyles, different styles. I just keep on smiling and being like, Omg I love your hair or Omg I love your outfit. I love everything because it is very rare that we are in these spaces. I just feel so proud being here and I’m taking in each second with awe.

ESSENCE: Being a supermodel of color how does it feel to be able to exhibit that confidence and give it to other women?

Smalls: I was blessed and fortunate to be able to do this cause I know not a lot of people get that opportunity. You want to make sure when you do it, you do it well. I’m not just doing it for myself. This represents a heritage behind me, being both black and Latin…and showcasing to the world that we are talented and we can be in Walmart. That is inspiring in itself.

I’m from a little island in Puerto Rico where opportunities aren’t as big as this. If I made it so can anyone with dedication. Be ambitious with what you want in life. 

ESSENCE: What’s your favorite piece from the line?

Joan: That’s like asking a mother who is her favorite child! I would say the fishnets because you can interchange them with a different top underneath… if you want to do white and black or neon and black… it gives you versatility. I would say that and the crushed velvet, its such a beautiful color and it looks so rich and it’s not a common material to use.

ESSENCE: What advice would you give to younger women who are coming into their own and going through puberty?

Joan: I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on how and what is acceptable and the thing is those are opinions. You shouldn’t let them affect you. You should be confident and comfortable in your own self and people will see that and embrace it once they see it.

When you see someone and think about how confident they are in their own skin, it’s because [they] truly love [themselves]… and loving who you are, that’s all part of it. It’s a tough world out there and [some people] try bring other people down because of their own insecurities. [Always] understand that you shouldn’t make their opinion count.