​model maria borges on embracing her natural black hair

Riccardo Tisci gave her the encouragement she needed backstage at Givenchy.

|
Aug 8 2015, 2:37pm

Photography via @iammariaborges

Maria Borges has spoken out about her decision to remove the long, straight hair extensions that many black models feel they need to wear to land fashion campaigns -- particularly commercial ones -- and to embrace her natural black hair in a cropped afro.

The Angolan model, who has walked for Dior, Versace, Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier and, of course, Givenchy, explains that her mentor Riccardo Tisci suggested that she should remove the extensions, but she had initially been afraid to. Borges told Style.com that, "He had asked me last season as well, but I had booked an H&M campaign that same week and at the time I wasn't feeling as comfortable with change. This season I finally felt ready, and I'm glad that I did."

Commenting on the reaction to her new 'do, Borges says that industry people simply didn't recognise her, explaining that, "There were people asking backstage, 'Who is that new girl?' which I thought was hilarious". We all know the transformative power of a new hair cut, but the change meant more to Borges than a regular chop. "I feel like I've proved that I can be beautiful with or without the hair," she says, adding that it has made her a more versatile model: "If I have a job to do where they need me to have longer hair, they can put extensions in for that shoot, and then I can take them out afterward. For the most part, I feel like my natural hair makes me look even more high fashion".

The new look has even influenced her personal make-up choices and style. "Since I've gone natural, I feel younger and fresher," Borges says, "With my short hair I don't feel like I need makeup—maybe I'll use a little foundation, but I'll skip blush or lipstick. When it comes to clothes, I gravitate toward styles that are cooler, more minimal."

Borges also described how cutting her hair short and keeping it natural has helped her to find her own identity as a model, separate from the leading black models who came before her, and sees this as a positive in an industry embracing diversity and individuality more and more. "The industry—thank God—has become more accepting of individuality. They accept whatever makes you feel comfortable, cool, and beautiful," she says, adding that, "I think that for those of us who grew up watching Naomi Campbell and all the top models who had beautiful long extensions, it's freeing because now you don't have to adhere just to that standard. You can change, you can go natural, you can have different colours, and you can be yourself."

@iammariaborges