Rocking Her Natural Hair, Maria Borges Makes History as First African Model on Cover In 20 Years

For the first time since the turn of the century, an African model will grace the cover of Elle magazine, thanks to Angolan stunner Maria Borges.

Borges is one of six models to score her own cover of Elle’s May swimsuit issue, which also includes Borges’ fellow Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show model Jasmine Tookes.

“The fashion industry is here for everyone, [regardless] of color or race,” Borges told the magazine, on sale Tuesday, April 18. “When I was growing up, I never saw someone like me, and now the other girls can see someone like them. It’s all about inspiration.”

Elle magazine debuted in 1985 and Borges is only the second African model to be on the cover after Sudanese model Alek Wek graced the cover of the publication’s Nov. 1997 issue.

Borges’ cover image marks the second time she’s made fashion history; her first came when she dared to wear her natural hair strutting down the Victora’s Secret runway last year.

“I wanted to be a high-fashion girl, ’cause when you start your career in high fashion, it lasts longer and at a later point, you can switch to commercial work,” she told Forbes of her decision. “The only issue that came with my shorter hair was that I wasn’t sure if Victoria’s Secret would book me like this. I thought I should maybe put on a wig or use clip-ins when going to the casting. I almost cried ’cause I thought they weren’t going to accept me like this since even Alek Wek wore long braids when she did the show. …

“What I learned is that Victoria’s Secret is a brand that wants you to be sexy and show your personality. And sexy is about how you carry yourself, it’s not about your hair.”

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