Joan Smalls is the cover girl for the October 2014 of Self Magazine shot by Patrick Demarchelier. Just five years ago, Joan Smalls was a struggling model—living at her aunt’s apartment in Queens, New York, taking the bus to catalog shoots and making homesick calls to her family in Puerto Rico. Things were not looking too good. One day, Smalls decided to motivate herself by filling a notebook page with a list of goals. They were big and highly specific. Model for Chanel. Get photographed by an iconic photographer like Mario Testino. Wear angel wings at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. These aims might seem a tad unrealistic—but only to those who have not witnessed Smalls’s unstoppable drive. Five years later, she has done all of those things, even adding in a few surreal bonus items (star in Beyoncé video, have Kanye West rap about you). But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Few can electrify a catwalk like Smalls, now one of the world’s top models. Her perfectly symmetrical face and golden skin have made her fashion’s reigning It Girl—not to mention that body. Lean but athletic, it’s a work of art in its own right. (Women already ask trainers for the “Joan Smalls butt.”) On the runway, Smalls moves with a confident, commanding gait that telegraphs pure power. The catwalk is about performance, and she brings to it the discipline and skill of an athlete.