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Credit: Margaret Zhang

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Margaret Zhang: What are you enjoying most about our shoot with GRAZIA today?

Maria Borges: I’m excited because it’s my first Australian experience – in every way. I’m having fun and the team doing the shoot are really friendly. 

MZ: We are of course shooting amidst news your good friend – or “godfather” – Riccardo Tisci has exited Givenchy. Have you spoken to him since the news broke or where were you when you found out?

MB: I was in Brazil rehearsing with the samba school – I am the muse for this Carnaval – and I found out like many others did via his Instagram announcement. I support everything he chooses to do and I am confident he will continue to be the creative he is!

MZ: During his electrifying 12-year tenure with the French house, he really has played such a role in championing diversity on the runway. He has supported ethnic minorities and even made his transgender model/assistant, Lea T., one of his creative muses. How important are these notions in today’s world and what do you think his lasting legacy will be?

MB: I think Ricardo’s approach to diversity fits and reflects our current world. I see much diversity where I live in NYC and on runways more now than when I started modeling. It makes me happy that this more open approach to diversity is inclusive and encompassing. This is part of his legacy.  

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Credit: Margaret Zhang

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MZ: Let’s switch over to Victoria’s Secret: What’s it like backstage getting ready for a show?

MB: It is like a giant pajama party backstage. All the girls are primping and prepping with lots of giggles and sisterhood. Remember there is a lot of press backstage with us, taking pictures and interviewing us. 

MZ: How important was it for you to walk the Victoria Secret runway in New York in 2015 with your natural hair?

MB: That show was amazing. When I went to the casting, I was praying they would let me wear my natural hair! I was nervous but then thrilled when my agent told me they would let me walk with my new short hair! I felt like I was glowing on the runway. I am happy that since then, more and more women are embracing their natural look. 

MZ: And what message did you want to send to young women?

MB: Every woman must believe in herself.  And step-by-step, that will give her strength to grow.

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Credit: Margaret Zhang

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MZ: You also walked for Raf Simons for Dior Haute Couture in 2013 and it was the first time he had used models of colour. What’s your future hope for women of colour and diversifying the skin colour ratio in the fashion industry?

MB: Walking for Dior that year was remarkable. Raf Simons is an incredible designer. It is very hard to always answer these questions because I think any model should be chosen not because of her skin colour but because she is the right look for the fashion house. The world is a big place with lots of people who look different. Shouldn’t our industry reflect the whole world and not just a part of it?   

MZ: What was your upbringing like in Angola?

MB: I was raised by my sister. My father was not present in my life. He left us when I was eight-years-old and my mother died when I was only 11, so I really only had my sister and my uncle.

MZ: That’s really sad but how lucky you were to have a loving sister. How did you broach the subject of becoming a model with your family?

MB: My sister recognised that modeling was an opportunity for me. She gave me permission to pursue it after I did well in a local contest.  She made me check in with her every day after I left Angola.  

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Credit: Margaret Zhang

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MZ: Where do you call home now and what’s it like to hang out at your place?

MB: I live in NYC and I love it. I have many friends here and am most fortunate that the city is a melting pot because when I couldn’t speak English I could still have friends who spoke Portuguese. It made me feel welcome. My first booker was Brazilian so it made it easier to learn the business.  

MZ: You’re a fan of Michelle Obama. If you could steal one quality of hers, what would it be?

MB: Mrs Obama is incredible. She is smart, well-spoken and respected. I would take any of those qualities. 

MZ: Do you have any tips for staying fit, toned and healthy whilst you’re on-the-go?

MB: Exercise, eat well and dance as much as you can!

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Credit: Margaret Zhang

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CREW
Photographer & styling: Margaret Zhang
Styling assistant: Jessi Jacq

Creative Direction: Justine O’Donnell
Hair: Takuya Sugawara
Makeup:Brigitte Reiss-Anderson

 

thoughts?