When Maria Borges walked the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show this week, she wore barely there lingerie, kaleidoscopic wings, and stiletto heels like most of the featured models. One thing was different, though: Instead of the loose barrel waves typically seen on the Victoria Secret runway (and in the pages of the brand's catalog), Borges wore hers natural in a TWA (teeny-weeny Afro), marking the first time the style appeared on the runway in the show's 20-year history. Alek Wek's close-cropped haircut in 2001 comes close, but Maria's textured coils truly have no precedent. Ahead of the show's airing on December 8 at 10 ET on CBS, we sat down with the Angolan model to talk about the significance of her hairstyle and whether the fashion industry is finally embracing natural hair.
It made my day to see you wearing your TWA in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show! How did that come about?
Thank you very much! Well, I chopped my hair a few months ago in order to restart from the beginning and take care of it so that it grows naturally healthy. I had a great fashion season in September so I told my agent that I would really like to walk the 2015 Victoria's Secret fashion show whilst rocking my short Afro hair.
Describe how it felt to walk out on the runway with your natural hair.
It felt amazing! The excitement that comes with walking a Victoria's Secret show is simply unique, so walking out my third show wearing my TWA was one the sexiest moments of my career so far!
We're often made to feel that natural hair isn't desirable. By wearing it as a Victoria's Secret Angel, you're completely disrupting that myth. Were you aware of the social significance of that moment?
It was very important for me to walk the show wearing my TWA. The huge amount of love and support I've been receiving, whether it's in the fashion industry itself or on social media, truly warms my heart and motivates me to be a voice for all the women out there. At the end of the day, we each have a different definition for beauty, but being yourself is the most important. Beauty type or hair styles constantly evolve through time. Hence, a woman shouldn't be reduced to the current trends.
What made you decide to wear your TWA for the show instead of the extensions you've worn in years prior?
Indeed, this year's Victoria's Secret fashion show marked my third participation in a row. [I decided to wear it] not only [because] I've been successfully wearing my TWA during the fashion month in September 2015, but also I felt like my third appearance at a Victoria's Secret show would be more meaningful or impactful if I could help a few women embrace their natural beauty.
Walk us through how you prepped your hair for the show. Did you style it yourself or did a hairstylist backstage style it?
That's actually a great question! My TWA enabled me to be done at the hair section much earlier than the other girls. I washed my hair and put some conditioner at home before heading to the Armory, where the show took place. The hairstylist basically only had to put some spray so that my TWA would be looking its best. It took the hairstylist literally 10 seconds.
On Essence.com, you said you didn't expect them to say yes to you wearing your natural hair. Have you ever experienced any resistance in the past modeling with your natural hair?
Well, I am the first model in the history of Victoria's Secret shows who walked the show wearing her TWA. Hence, I felt very special when I actually got the request to walk the show wearing my TWA. All models experience resistance during their modeling careers; the point is just to remain yourself and make meaningful and genuine decisions. I would like to thank Victoria's Secret's team for giving me such a great opportunity.
You walked in Givenchy with your Afro. Do you see more designers and brands embracing it now? What do you think accounts for that change?
I think that people are starting to realize that perfection is in the eyes of the beholder! There are amazing designers like Riccardo Tisci (whom I consider like my godfather in the industry), who are aware that beauty isn't defined by being just one thing or perceived in a single way. Today we hear people's voices, thanks to social media, and that can change things. This change is happening right now!
What advice would you give to other models who might feel like they have to straighten their hair or wear extensions to get the job?
I understand their struggle, but I think that we have to firstly accept ourselves the way we are. I do think that girls are told at an early age that straightening their hair is the right thing, whereas it's simply not. You need to shut down the negative energy and do what makes you feel good. What makes you feel good is what makes you beautiful!
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