Jana Smalls, 29
40th St between Broadway and Seventh Ave
Tue Aug 26 2008
Photograph: Jay Muhlin
What are you up to?
Buying material for a suit I'm making. It's for a class; I go to the Art Institute.
So what will be in your collection?
I want to go where the money is—with youthful stuff. And jeans. You can never go wrong with jeans.
You're that person who'd pay, like, $600 for a pair, aren't you?
No! $200 is my max.
Where are you from?
I've been in Staten Island since I was one.
Is that a good thing?
No. Staten Islanders see things in terms of race. I don't spend time there, I don't give them any of my money because I don't like being treated like a second-class citizen.
Damn, sounds like the 1950s South.
Yeah. Once this whole fashion thing takes off I'm moving.
Is fashion a moneymaking venture for you?
I just want to be seen. I would love to have it translate into something bigger. Maybe the proceeds of my clothes could help out other nations, like in Africa. Anything to try to help out the next Jana Smalls, you know? .
So your goals are humanitarian.
There are so many things I want to do once I have my fame. I also work for a drug and alcohol detox at Bayley Seton Hospital in Staten Island.
Detox!?! But aren't you designing clothes for cokehead models?
[Laughs] God no! If you're on drugs or under a certain weight, you gotta go. If I make it big, I will weigh my girls. You better eat that hamburger, uh huh!
More thoughts from Jana
"The only book I've been into lately is my art-history book. I got a lot of inspiration from it—like clothes from the rococo period. I love those dresses with the crinoline and petticoats underneath them."
"Lately I hate going to movies. There's always that one person in the theater who wants to be loud and stupid. You're looking at the back of their head going, If I was to hit 'em in the back of the head would they see me?"
"A lot of my friends are plus-size and have the same complaints. Things pinch on them. No one can get gastric bypass and be a size zero tomorrow. So you gotta work with what you got. How many times have you been inside a fitting room trying to find the escape hatch to get out of the dress? If I had a dollar for every time I got stuck in a dress because the cut was funny, I'd be rich."