Recognize the name Joan Smalls? If not, you soon will, according to Elle magazine.
At a time when magazine covers are dominated by celebrities hawking a new movie or TV show, and are criticized for their lack of diverse faces, Elle magazine kicks off 2014 with the Puerto Rican model on the cover -- and a story and photo spread that is not short on superlatives:
She is called, among other things, a "flawless, unequivocal beauty" and "the planet's most perfect face."
Smalls, 25, is the reigning No. 1 face on the all-important Models.com ranking, is the first Latina to front a worldwide campaign for Estee Lauder and is the eighth-highest-paid model in the world. (That is, when she's not partying with Beyonce. Smalls also appears in Beyonce's racy new video, Yonce.)
Model Shelley GoodStein, author of "Face This: Real advice from real models, photographers and makeup artists on how to become Picture Perfect" and a consultant to models breaking into the business, told the Los Angeles Times that Smalls has been "flying under the radar a bit" but is currently poised to break through the media clutter -- and not a moment too soon.
"We're just so conditioned to the Caucasian girl, the typical girl that becomes the star," GoodStein said. "The fact that she's on the cover -- I love that. It's time. A model's duty doesn't have to be dictated by a certain aesthetic." (Meanwhile, Elle is under fire for an entirely different reason involving the February cover.)
GoodStein said it remained to be seen whether Smalls would ultimately catapult herself into "first-name-only" status like the supermodels of the 1990s -- Naomi, Cindy, Claudia, Christy...
Some of the skeptics among you might be eye-rolling about now.
After all, the word "supermodel" gets thrown around a lot these days, and saying someone has a "perfect" face is high praise indeed. (Elle magazine, of course, has an interest in touting its cover choice, and many of the fashion and modeling experts quoted arguably also have an interest in playing up the face of their brand.)
So we turned to two beauty experts who measure -- actually measure -- beauty and asked them for their thoughts about Smalls' face. Sure, it's lovely. But is it perfect?
In a word: no.
But hang on, listen to everything they had to say.
Gary Meisner is the developer of the PhiMatrix Golden Ratio Design and Analysis software, which documents evidence of the Golden Ratio -- that timeless mathematical equation that can be applied to everything from the Parthenon to Queen Nefertiti's legendarily beautiful face.
Meisner's colleague Steven Marquardt is a retired Orange County surgeon who researches human attractiveness and lectures about his findings. He developed the Marquardt Beauty Mask -- a facial imaging technique -- to analyze beauty.
These experts' dual technologies allowed them to measure and analyze Smalls' face and conclude during a joint conference call:
"She has a lot of nice features where she conforms to the Golden Ratio, and that gives her her beauty," Meisner said, adding that part of Smalls' allure comes from a seeming "cross-racial beauty." "But her face is not 'perfect,'" Marquardt added, noting an almost imperceptible lack of all-important symmetry in the nose and chin.
Both men said that although Smalls does not fall into the "classically beautiful" category, her features nonetheless pull the viewer in -- exactly what a brand like Estee Lauder wants.
"She has great cheeks, beautiful eyes and beautiful brows," Marquardt said. "She is so striking."
So what about us mere mortals who have zero shot at supermodel-dom and aren't willing to go under the knife?
Marquardt says one of the most underutilized tools out there is -- believe it or not -- makeup.
He said women apply makeup as a matter of course, but many are not skilled in how to use makeup to contour and highlight their best features and minimize those less-than-perfect attributes.