Angolan model Maria Borges redefined the industry’s standards of sexy the moment she walked down the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway wearing her short, natural hair. And now, she’s telling PeopleStyle exactly what that boundary breaking moment meant for her.
When Borges first hit the brand’s runway in 2013, she was a 21-year-old model with long, wavy extensions to match the typical Victoria’s Secret model look. Now, at 23, she left the faux hair behind in order to flaunt her natural texture— a look that she’s proud to embrace.
“I remember when Riccardo Tisci suggested to let go of the extensions,” she tells PeopleStyle of the Givenchy designer who encouraged her to rock her natural look. “I was a little skeptical because it would be too different to completely change my look with an image that would shape my modeling career. Then he used me in his runway show for Givenchy with my short hair. That moment was when I realized that by looking back to little girls back in Africa struggling to fit into ‘society’ by relating their looks to Caucasian and other ethnicities. No matter what kind of hair or skin color you have, you should always love yourself.”
Soon after that, she hit the runway to walk in her third super-sexy VS show — but this time, she did so without her extensions.
“It took me by surprise, honestly,” she says of the decision for her natural. “Victoria’s Secret always used girls with their long hair always on point, but I was super lucky to walk for them with my natural hair. It made a statement that you don’t need wigs and a lot of makeup to be sexy, you have to be sexy being comfortable with who you are. It’s an inside job.”
Which is why becoming a face of Mizani, alongside fellow model Chanel Iman, Grace Mahary, and Heidy De la Rosa, was the perfect move for her. “The fact that Mizani embraces women of all ethnicities is everything I fight for: Be yourself,” she says. “When I was invited for the project, I was truly honored when they took a chance on using the real me with my natural hair, with no wigs or a weave. I am so happy that brands are taking notice and going more diverse so that beauty can be seen everywhere. Like they say: It takes one person to change fashion trends.”
So how does the model keep her hair in check? “My hair guru Marcello Costa aught me to always keep my hair moisturized with serums [like Mizani HD Shine]. If I want a small Afro, I wash my hair and then I apply a serum and let it dry natural. Now, if I want a bigger Afro, I brush it a couple of times to obtain volume.”
However, Borges’ decision to go natural doesn’t mean that she’s not willing to play around with wigs and extensions. “I always like to experiment with my hair,” she says. “I love my hair the way it is, but modeling, more than anything, I play different characters when I am shooting or walking on the catwalk. But when I am invited to be ‘Maria Borges,’ that’s when you’ll see me with my little Afro.”