When Maria Borges walked her first Victoria's Secret fashion show sporting her natural hair, viewers were stunned. In previous years, she wore extensions — like most of the models — which made this look all the more groundbreaking. And when she sported her small Afro alongside Jourdana Phillips and Herieth Paul last year? Viewers rejoiced even louder.
But there's something that happened before she made history that you may not expect: she was nervous.
"Victoria's Secret didn’t request for me to do that — I requested to do that," she tells Refinery29. "With a brand like Victoria's Secret, it’s better when they ask for something specific, but I requested to wear my natural hair like that. I never thought that they’d accept it, but I’m glad they did. My friend Herieth thanked me for opening the door for her to wear her natural hair on the runway for the first time."
We're thankful, too. In fact, Borges said that her bold choice afforded her a wave of new opportunities — and one of them includes her role as the face of L'Oréal Paris, announced in February. "It’s like a dream come true, and I’m so happy that we can finally represent all women around the world and show them that we’re all beautiful," she says.
Of course, the new role is not without perks — including tons of new beauty products to play with. Borges' favorites include the brand's upcoming Matte Obsession lip color collection, and the Detox & Brighten Pure Clay Mask, which gives her "flawless and healthy" skin. She also turns to L'Oreal to care for her natural hair, particularly the Botanicals Fresh Care range that's, well, more natural. It's these products that make her hair look as beautiful as she feels on the inside, she reports. "Being natural is about you being yourself," she says. "And you can't be afraid to show people who you are."
While Borges is undoubtedly leading by example (you know you've made it once the Instagram fan accounts start popping up), she still looks up to the greats. "Naomi Campbell is the most beautiful Black model I’ve ever seen," Borges says. "She’s perfection for me." And as for her guiding lights that are outside of the spotlight? "My mom is one of my icons," she says. "She always told me that you’re beautiful the way you are, and you must embrace it."
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