American boxer Rocky Marciano once said: ”There is no second place. Either you win or you lose.” And although there are many people who’d agree with the heavyweight champion, a striking, 1.8m tall Angolan model, Maria Borges has proved him wrong.
The Angolan beauty who was named Forbes Africa Magazine’s top model of 2013 came second in the 2010 Elite Model Look Angola competition, is now one of the most sought-after supermodels in the world, eclipsing, in the greater scheme of things, whoever it was who came first.
Marciano, who never lost a title fight, had an “exceptionally durable chin”. Borges’s durability is different. Hers comes with the tenacity born of surviving a tumultuous childhood during Angola’s civil war, and from being blessed with a million-dollar smile, not to mention the determination to persevere despite not winning that first competition.
“I think I have helped raise awareness among African girls that if you work hard and keep going, you can achieve something great,” she says.
Borges was recently in SA to shoot a campaign for Woolworths’s Spring/Summer 2018 Edition label.
She was brought up in a fatherless household and her mother died when she was 11 years old. To all intents and purposes she was raised by her 16-year-old sister. At the age of 18, Borges’s sister started working in a supermarket so that she could pay for her younger siblings’ schooling.
”I learnt a lot from that period of my life,” says the model. “It has made me so much stronger. I wanted to get into modelling so that I could help my sister earn money and pay for our university someday.”
Borges entered the Elite model competition in 2010 when she was 17 years old, and was spotted by a talent scout from the Luanda-based agency STEP Models, who recognised her potential and was impressed by her positive attitude. Angola, once a Portuguese colony, still has ties with Portugal and Borges was soon sent to the Lisbon agency We Are Models to further her career and work all over Europe.