- The Victoria Secret fashion show boasts scores of beautiful models in iconic long, wavy hair, independent of their color skin
- But three years ago, a black model convinced executives to come out on the runway with her short, afro natural hair. They relented and she made history
- Cases like these show the immense barriers non-white models still have to surmount to “make it” in this tough industry
Back in 2015, Angolan model Maria Borges made history. She became the first Victoria Secret model to appear on their iconic fashion runway with her natural afro hair –short and without the typical wavy locks the brand’s “angels” always wear while strutting down the runway.
"I wanted to send a message out there. People think to be sexy you have to have long hair, no ... a lot of women around the world have hair texture like mine," Borges said, adding that she had to convince the brand’s representatives.
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Only one year later, two other black models, Herieth Paul and Jourdana Phillips, were also doing the same. Borges wants to state "the empowering message that a girl who started from the bottom can be an international beauty symbol, and be living proof that our dreams are valid."
She has aimed to pose as role model for many issues surrounding people of color. Her early life was hard. Borges, who is now 24 years old, grew up in the midst of her country’s civil war. Her mother passed away, and she was raised by a sister.
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Borges has continued to grow in her modelling career. She became the newest face of L'Oreal Paris last month, which allows her to choose one model to make her runway debut at Paris Fashion Week. She decided to bet on Olamide Ogundele, a Nigerian model.
"It's very important for African women and for women around the world [to know] that you too can be included," Borges said. Many of her actions have demonstrated that, with effort and self-confidence, this can also become a reality.
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Nevertheless, things are still changing slowly for models with ethnicities other than traditional European styles. Of the world's twenty highest paid female models in 2016, only three are non-white, according to Forbes.
Yet little by little, the outlook starts to be more diverse. For the first time in history, more than 25% of models used in at the main Spring 2017 season fashion shows from Milan, New York and others, were non-white. This number is the highest compared to all the other seasons in history. Sudanese model Nykhor Paul hopes this increase "is not a trend but a breakthrough."