Angolan model, Maria Borges, was born and raised in the country’s capital of Luanda during a civil war. At only 11-years-old, Maria lost her mother. Her then 16-year-old older sister took over the role as Maria’s caregiver, leaving the two girls to depend on one other during years of violent warfare and conflict.
Maria initially entertained the idea of modeling simply as a means to earn extra spending money and save for University. She participated in the Elite Model Look Angola competition in 2010 and placed in the top ten. Though she didn’t win, she scored the attention of a local model scout who quickly placed her in an overseas agency. After her first few modeling opportunities, Maria’s sights fixed on New York and the no-longer-unrealistic plan of following in the footsteps her idol, Naomi Campbell.
The top model hit the streets of New York City sprinting. She booked 17 shows in her first New York Fashion Week season, dispelling any doubts industry professionals harbored about the newcomer. In her second season, she became a Givenchy exclusive.
Maria is one of Riccardo Tisci’s protégées, often referring to the creative director of Givenchy as her “godfather”. Only one year after her wildly successful first show season, Forbes Africa named her its top model of 2013.
To date, she has walked the runways of Givenchy, Tom Ford, Balmain, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen, Elie Saab, Marchesa, Yeezy and Victoria's Secret to name only a handful.
Perhaps most notably, Maria became the first-ever model to walk the runway of Victoria’s Secret annual show with her natural hair. Under the encouragement of British Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief, Edward Enninful, and Riccardo Tisci, Maria decided to sport her short, natural afro in her third year walking the show. The following year, two models followed suit on the VS runway. Maria’s unabashed move to embrace her natural beauty is only one feat in her overall goal to inspire women – namely those struggling to find themselves represented.
Maria has appeared in beauty campaigns for Givenchy, Bobbi Brown, L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline, Tommy Hilfiger, C&A and H&M. In 2016, Maria became a global ambassador for L’Oréal, signing a multi-year deal spanning across hair, makeup and skincare products.
Select titles include the Italian, Portuguese, and UK editions of Vogue, W, CR Fashion Book, Harper’s Bazaar, i-D and Marie Claire. Most recently, Maria was Elle’s May 2016 cover star along with Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Jasmine Tookes, Candice Huffine and Elsa Hosk.