This year's show cast in Shanghai talked about how important diversity is to them in the show
Credit: Brittany Talarico/People

When Maria Borges asked to walk the Victoria’s Secret runway with her natural, short hair three years ago, she didn’t think she’d be allowed. After all, the show was known for sending women down the runway with glowy makeup, teetering stilettos and long, loose waves that were a brand signature. But she was surprised to find the brand gave her the green light – and this year, Borges, along with multiple other models, are all wearing their natural hair on the annual lingerie show’s iconic catwalk. With 55 models representing 17 countries, this year’s fashion show, which took place in Shanghai, China, was the most diverse yet — and we spoke to a few of them to find out what this year’s well-rounded roster means to them.

Maria Borges: Luanda, Angola

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Borges, who wore her natural short hair during the show for the third year in a row, tells PeopleStyle backstage, “Victoria’s Secret gave me the opportunity to do so in 2015. Since then I’ve seen other girls join me. It’s just a blessing we’re all so grateful for this moment and this opportunity.”

And as for the diverse roster in this year’s show, the Angolan model says, “It makes me proud and happy. This is it. We all come from a different race and share different cultures but we need to learn [about ] each other. We need to learn more. I’m here in Shanghai and I’ve learned about how they live a little bit, and the city is so beautiful. Diversity is important.”

Aiden Curtiss: New York, New York

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“I’m actually so glad that this is my first show because of how diverse it is, and that I’m a part of that,” says first-timer Aiden Curtiss, who also swapped the show’s signature waves for her natural tight curls. “So many of my friends are here who are from all over the world. I really appreciate that Victoria’s Secret, one of the biggest brands that defines beauty in culture in general, is taking the steps to show people that beauty isn’t just the obvious blonde hair and blue eyes. Yes, you can be beautiful if you have blonde hair and blue eyes, but you can also be beautiful if you’re from Africa or Asia. It’s amazing.”

Leomie Anderson: London, United Kingdom

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“It’s so amazing to be here,” Leomie Anderson said about her experience in Shanghai. “I love the fact that they brought all these different cultures and all these different girls to one place. You have almost 20 different countries represented within the course of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. To have all those different people and all those different girls in one place — it’s amazing.”

And the model, who starred in Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty campaign (which itself was lauded for its wide range of foundation shades), is well on her way to making the fashion industry more inclusive.

“I am a champion of diversity. I’m always talking about how important it is for fashion to be more diverse. I’m so proud of the Victoria’s Secret Show for encouraging that and being a part of that movement because I think it’s very important that every single person and every single girl can look at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show now and feel represented.”

Lais Ribeiro: Teresina Piaul, Brazil

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“I think for the girls out there just to get inspired and see people that they think kind of look like them,” Lais Ribeiro, who wore this year’s fantasy bra, said. “My skin tone, my hair or I’m from that country. That’s amazing inspiration for them. “Liu Wen: Yongzhou, China


And for model Liu Wen, the show’s move to Shanghai was a major moment. “It’s my home country, so I can’t ask for more,” she shared. “I’m very excited and proud. We have so many Chinese girls. It’s like fashion has brought us all together to make the world a little smaller.” What do you think about the diversity in this year’s show? Sound off in the comments below.