Victoria’s Secret and her Damn Hair

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“To be a Victoria’s Secret model, everything has to be just perfect, just at the right time.”
-John Pfieffer (Victoria’s Secret casting director)

The Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show has a checklist. One, there must be a beautiful woman. Two, that beautiful woman must be tall and well proportioned. Three, that beautiful, tall and well-proportioned women, must have beautiful skin. Four, that woman must posses the unshakeable confidence that allows one to be comfortable enough in herself (and her method-of-choice hair removal treatment) to strut in a low-rise bikini-style panty and bra set, #nofilter, in a room full of people whose job is to literally judge you. Five, she must posses a down pact smile and a signature pose that is that is he perfect blend of Madonna and whore- hold the complex.

And last, but with the same importance as the first, come runway time, the beautiful woman must possess long, lightly curled, slightly tousled, flowing hair.
This was the checklist.

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That is until the Maria Borges come-through.

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Victoria’s Secret has always had an affinity towards hiring women diverse in ethnicity, hailing from all over the world. And the Victoria’s Secret models are women equally merited in beauty and diversity –an attribute which gives their models that other-worldly look. However, following the years since the Banks and Campbell runway way back in day, angels have risen, and fallen. Yet every December, with each step of progression, there was always a hint of ethnocentrism in the air, that overpowered any theme and spread like smoke out of T.V screens that even the most potent Victoria’s Secret eau de parfum couldn’t cover.

It was the hair.

Models, aesthetically different, all had a uniformed hair which called for women to modify perhaps, but called for black women to modify, specifically. Thus the Victoria’s Secret employed black model went to lengths to fit into their uniform.

That is, until the Maria Borges come-through.

Although Borges wore a weave in last season’s runway show, she changed the game that made ripples recognized by those who related in the social media world.

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And to those questioning the magnitude of the Maria Borges come-through, least we remind you that a black women’s hair in America is a political and sometimes social statement.

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There was, and have always been messages. Before the time of the naturalista, some young black girls weren’t able to grab a full head of their natural hair when the waiting perms, blow dryers and hot combs revealed themselves on “special occasions,” when the time came for a little girl to really “impress” at her party or mother daughter dance. The message was the black barbie, who looked liked the identical twin of the white barbie dipped in chocolate.

Thank God for the come-up.

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The message was that one character who would assume the role of the “black girl” in most television shows in the early 90’s that was more reminiscent of the beautiful Karrueche Tran, (#lovebombshellcovergirls) than the beautiful Lupita Nyong’o (#lovefuturebombshellvovergirls).

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Rolling over into our adult life, the message is the question of how a black woman’s hair should be worn at work. We deal with lectures, documentaries, and discussions about what’s “professional”, what’s not and the absurdity of it all, stemming back from the image of the pikinini. Weave today, braids tomorrow, side head-shave on the weekends-to some it’s just a matter of play, but for others it’s about the right of choice without the attached hair stigmas.

What this new image means for the future aesthetics of “ethnic” women walking for a show that front lines the assumed most desirable representation of women in the world has yet to be seen. However, what this debut could mean for society is the mainstream acceptance of what was propagandized as an unappealing trait turned sexy, pushing models and every one to take pride in what was once called, “too-ethic”.

The Breakdown

Larryse is a writer and a teacher with background that includes a masters in education from Columbia University and a bachelors in Media Studies. Her career aims highlight culture, history, and humanities.

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