Photographer Richard Bernardin
Fashion Editor Zeina Esmail
TO INSPIRE GIRLS
African supermodel Maria Borges continues to conquer the modelling world after her fashion week debut in 2012. This New York-based Angolan model radiates positivity in everything she does, inspiring women all around the world today.
By Pia Mikhael
Her eternal positivity is contagious, and her rise to fame is an inspiring story to many – including those who believe they do not have the means to rise in the industry.
According to Richard Bernardin, the photographer of the shoot, Maria arrived like a true African Queen. The shoot call time was 7:30 A.M. in order for the team to get settled and be ready to start as soon as our cover star, Maria arrived, whose call time was at 8 A.M. When she had not yet arrived by 8:10, the team wondered if she was going to be late and started exchanging stories about past shoots where certain models arrived a shocking three hours late for no better reason than their alarm had not gone off.
At precisely 8:15 A.M., came a knock on the hotel suite door, and in came Maria who not only immediately apologized for her lateness but also went around and introduced herself to every member of the team. Being informed the day before the shoot by her agent that she was arriving straight from the airport due to complications in scheduling, the team knew that she was coming right off a red-eye. After assuming that she had flown from L.A., Maria, looking absolutely radiant with the grandest of smiles, told us that she had flown that morning from her home in Angola, where she had been visiting her family. Needless to say, the team was completely taken aback by her work ethic and the size of her heart. Despite being on a flight for over 40 hours, Maria was giving the shoot 200% all day.
You chose to walk the Victoria’s Secret runway in 2015 with your natural hair. Why was this decision important to you? The decision was because I was always seen as a high-fashion girl, and I just did a hair-show in Paris for Givenchy, and it was major. I decided to keep my natural hair for the Victoria’s Secret shows. I really wanted to make a difference. I wanted to show all the girls that I had the opportunity to work with my natural, short hair. I did it; the rest was history. That was something I wanted to do to make a change.
As a woman of colour in the fashion industry, what are the challenges that you face? I feel like as long as you work and show that you are meant for it, then you’re good – I don’t really see the rest. If you are good at what you do, it doesn’t matter whether you are a woman of colour or not. I feel like there is an opportunity for everyone, and whoever is ready to take it, will do it.
So, what advice would you give to girls of different backgrounds that want to break it into the fashion industry and are not as confident as you are? My advice to those girls is to be themselves, to understand what this is about, and to inspire other girls.
What was it like growing up in Angola? Well, I was born during the Civil War – I don’t remember much of it because I was a baby, but growing up in Angola was amazing. I was always surrounded by love, even though I lost my mom when I was 11. My sister always took care of me and my brother. My family supports us as well. I feel like I was a happy child with a lot of dreams, and dreaming big of being the first supermodel of my country, and one of the best models from Africa right now.
So, you said that your sister raised you and your brother after your mom passed away – what are your siblings doing now? They are back in my country. My sister has a family, and she is working. The same goes for my brother. They are still in my country.
How often do you go back and visit your friends and family? What are your future plans relating to Angola? I go back every summer and every Christmas. If I have a week off, I go back as well. I visit them when I can. Family is my priority. I go home and give my family and friends hugs. When I’m home, the thing I love the most is spending quality time with my family. Now, I am supporting girls in my country and have a career out there. I do some charity as well. I like to help, and I like to live.
What sparked your interest in working in the fashion industry, and what pushed you to want to do this as a career? I will start with the stability of myself and my family. Modelling has helped me help them. Of course, my life changed from water to wine. It was a big change, and I love all of the things that I have. I want to work to inspire a lot of girls, and it is a dream come true to become a model because in my country they think it is not a real job. Showing them that it is a real job and that it is worth it, is what I fight for.
Are you looking to continue working as a model or in fashion long-term? Or are you thinking about branching out in acting, for example? My long-term goal is fashion. But, of course, if something comes my way, I will take it. I feel like I am very free, and I like different, new trends. Fashion and modelling are treating me well, and I appreciate it.
How are you able to portray and radiate positivity in everything you do? Life is tough sometimes, and you’re always so happy and so positive. I think it is healthy to be positive. As you mentioned, life is so hard, so why do you have to make it harder? I always like to smile, even when I’m sad, because when someone is sad, you feel for that person. I always try to show the best of me, and somehow, I don’t need to show everybody that I am upset. I am grateful I have this life, and every day I wake up in the morning, and I realize that this is the best gift I actually received.
You are 26. You’re still young, and obviously you are very busy. How do you keep up with your dating life and personal relationships? Well, I feel like in life you got to find time to do everything. Love is something that I live by. I love when people love me. I love my boyfriend, so we work it out. As long as he supports me and I support him – that is the way to live life.
Photographer Photographer Richard Bernardin
Fashion Editor Zeina Esmail at P1M.ca.
Makeup Carolina Dali at THE WALLGROUP
Hair Kyle Malone at BRYAN BANTRY
Post-production Patricia Sinclair
Model Maria Borges at IMG
Assistant photographer Misa Cuering
Special thanks to Lorraine Ospedale & Anju Sundrani and the Mondrian Park Avenue Hotel