Maria Borges and the Black Hair Politics on the Runway

It has been said that a woman’s hair is her glory and by the looks of all the hoopla surrounding it, especially when it comes to women of color, that statement might as well be true. Maria Borges’ natural hair on the runway was a game changer.

Angolan model Maria Borges was accompanied by the dreadlock-wearing singer-songwriter The Weeknd (who is of Ethiopian descent) at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show– this inevitably rehashed the topic surrounding “Black Hair Politics.”

Borges’ monumental decision to walk the runway with a 100 percent natural close crop at her third appearance was a surprise, delight, and shock for the unsuspecting naturalistas in the audience at the annual lingerie showcase. We immediately think of Alex Wek’s close-cropped hair cut in the early 2000s, but this is the first time a mini-afro appeared in the show’s 20-year-history.

“I told my agent I wanted to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Show with my natural hair,” Borges told Essence Magazine. “I was nervous, but I had to do it. When they said ‘yes’ I didn’t expect it, but I was so happy!”

The fact that I’m even writing about her decision to do this “monumental” transformation is a little disheartening; she had to ask her agent when to wear her natural, textured coils on her own head, which is even more disheartening.


Angolan model Maria Borges (left) and Ethiopian-Canadian singer-songwriter The Weekend (right) Image credit: Getty
In seasons past, Borges wore extensions in her hair like almost all models of color have done. This gets into the touchy subject of models of color adhering to white beauty standards in order to be accepted in the white-dominated fashion industry.

For this special occasion, Borges broke protocol and graced us with the fullness of her beauty and so artfully promoted her hashtag #MBmakinghistory, proving that she’s not only beautiful, but smart and savvy at using social media to build her personal brand.

I recently cut my hair and I’ve experienced the same strange sense of strength that Borges demonstrated.

I’ve been fully natural for over four years now, but I mostly hid my hair under weaves or braids. I finally threw caution to the wind, chopped my hair off and wore it out in public– the response I got was overwhelmingly positive.

Not that I cared whether people liked it or not— it was something I did for myself, but I thought it was interesting to see that when I chose to believe that my natural state was beautiful, I step out into who I really was and refused to hide behind artificial hair, and others agreed.

I’m not saying weaves or braids are bad; heck, I’m the first one to get them when it gets cold outside or when I’m on vacation, but if you don’t remind yourself of your natural beauty, no one will say you are.

It’s why we should always focus on developing our own platform to legitimize and uphold our own beauty standards.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show will air on CBS on December 8, but in the meantime, learn more about why black hair matters in the video below.


Ashley Paintsil is a lifestyle writer and a content strategist for emerging fashion companies. She has a passion for discovering new talent in the fashion tech, design and business spaces and bringing their stories to light. With several years of experience supporting a team at an East Coast venture capital firm, she also has a knack for giving advice on how to make and keep money and how to succeed in entrepreneurial life.

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