The past few months have been a series of firsts for Somali-American model Halima Aden.
The 19-year-old hijab-wearing beauty had her first beauty pageant, first major runway show with Kanye West’s Fall 2017 Yeezy collection, first cover shoots for two internationally renowned magazines, and was even crowned homecoming queen at her high school.
On wearing the hijab, Halima states that it’s how she interprets her religion. She also added that people often forget that there are Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab. It’s ultimately all about a woman’s choice and her right to choose.
Halima first gained recognition for wearing a hijab and burkini during the Miss Teen Minnesota pageant in November last year, and said that the fabric shielded her from body shaming.
“Society puts so much pressure on girls to look a certain way. I have much more to offer than my physical appearance, and a hijab protects me against: ‘You’re too skinny’, ‘You’re too thick’, ‘Look at her hips’, ‘Look at her thigh gap’. I don’t have to worry about that.” – Halima Aden
Pictures of Halima during the pageant radiating such warmth, joy and confidence, caught the attention of Ivan Bart, head of IMG Models. Within weeks, she was booked by the agency, and she’s now well on her way to a successful modelling career. Celebrity photographer Mario Sorrenti described her as a force to be reckoned with. “The power really comes from her eyes and her presence. I think there’s a modern quality about her being of her faith and expressing her femininity and beauty with confidence”, he said.
Although Halima chooses to dress modestly, she is respectful of other women’s decisions and how they express themselves differently fashion-wise. The ironic thing? If a woman chooses to dress in more revealing attire, she’s called a slut, and if she chooses to cover her body, she’s labelled as oppressed. Halima’s advice? Do what makes you feel happy and beautiful, and when it comes to bullying, refuse to be the victim. “If you think people are against you and that you’re a target, things will start appearing that way,” she explained.
She is a symbol of hope for a more inclusive and diverse community. According to Ian Griffiths, creative director of Max Mara, “She comes across as an intelligent, confident, ambitious, courageous woman even when she’s just walking along.” Catering to your consumers is also important. “You wouldn’t be surprised to see a Max Mara coat worn with a hijab”, he observed, “So why shouldn’t our runway reflect that too?”
Halima is still getting used to to the voice that modelling has given her. She sees how powerful an instrument it is, and she is now able to reach out to people and help them understand Muslim women and Somali-Americans better. By being accepted for being true to herself, she helps others understand that all they need to work towards is to be the best versions of themselves, and they never have to wish or try to be like somebody else.