Making history on the Victoria’s Secret runway as the first black model to walk for the brand sans a wig or weave, Borges’ striking beauty has been praised the world over. Equally striking, however, is her commitment to represent Africa in a positive light and help create opportunities for African women to achieve their own success.
You were in Africa at the end of last year. What were you working on?
I was in Dakar, Senegal, for the EVE programme, which is a women’s leadership conference to help females unlock their potential. I shared my experiences as a model with other African women and was honoured to visit such an amazing city and country. It was my first time in Senegal.
Why were you given the epithet of “Africa’s happiest supermodel”?
When I left Angola for New York, I spoke no English at all, so all I did was smile. That got me my first jobs. Your smile is your brightness and power and with it, you can conquer the world. I maintain my happiness because I love others and feel loved by them in return.
What did becoming the new face of L’Oréal mean to you?
It meant the world to me because I’m breaking barriers: L’Oréal Paris has never had an African woman with natural hair represent it. That’s very impactful and I’ll ensure that I’m the best ambassador the brand’s ever had so that other African women get the same opportunity.
What are your current favourite beauty items?
L’Oréal Paris Color Riche lipstick and L’Oréal Paris Volume Million Lashes mascara. My favourite skincare products are the L’Oréal Paris Pure Clay masks. I use them with organic African coconut oil. In New York, I use the L’Oréal Botanicals haircare range – especially the treatment. My hair’s so easy and low-maintenance that I don’t need to do much to it before I’m ready to go. I also use hair gel sometimes.
What advice can you offer young women who look up to you, hoping to emulate your success?
Be yourself. Never try to be anyone but yourself and always follow your dreams. We each have our own strengths and talents, so use yours.
Being a supermodel means being categorised alongside runway legends like Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks. What legacy are you hoping to build?
I’m still young and still learning, so I want to use whatever incredible opportunities life gives me. I want my legacy to be one of doing something valuable for humanity.
Who’s taught you the most in your industry?
The iconic Edward Enninful of British Vogue. He’s inspired and encouraged me – as well as many other black models – and is the first African to hold the title of Editor-in-Chief for such a huge fashion magazine.
How do you get your skin to look its best just before a runway show?
I love having facials and massages before runway shows. I also believe that less is more, so I always ensure that I look as natural as possible.
Where do you see yourself in two years’ time?
I want to be Africa’s Anna Wintour! (Laughs)
What’s your power principle?
I have a tattoo on my arm that says: “Step by step” to remind me to take my life slowly and purposefully.