Model Halima Aden is continuing to make a mark in her career by simply being herself. Recently, the model, who identifies as Muslim, appeared in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated magazine. However, instead of donning a bikini, Halima stayed true to her beliefs and chose to dress modestly. In doing so, she became the first model to be featured in the magazine wearing a hijab and burkini!
Photographed by Yu Tsai, the Somali-American model appeared in the magazine wearing several colorful hijabs and burkinis. The burkini is a swimsuit that covers most of the body except for the hands, feet, and face which is a popular choice for some Muslim women. “We believe beauty knows no boundaries,” said SI Swimsuit editor MJ Day of choosing the model for the edition, which will hit newsstands in May. “I admire Halima, and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador. She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. When we met, I was instantaneously taken by her intelligence, enthusiasm, and authenticity.”
For Halima, the decision to be a part of the magazine’s swimsuit edition was to celebrate her background and uplift others in her own community. “Don’t change yourself .. Change the GAME!! Ladies anything is possible!!!” Halima shared in a caption on Instagram. “Being in Sports Illustrated is so much bigger than me. It’s sending a message to my community and the world that women of all different backgrounds, looks, upbringings… can stand together and be celebrated.”
Back To Her Roots
For the shoot, Halima returned to her native country of Kenya–– a place of such incredible beauty but yet still holds bitter memories for the model. She was born at the Kakuma refugee camp where she lived until she moved to the United States at the age of seven. Halima was able to shoot on Watamu Beach on the Kenyan coast which was a powerful moment for her. “I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” she said during her shoot. “So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya – I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.”
This isn’t the first time that Halima made history for her hijab. At the age of 19, she made headlines when she was the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. After the pageant, she went on to sign with IMG Models using her career as a successful model to share her traditions and redefine beauty.
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Don’t change yourself .. Change the GAME!! Ladies anything is possible!!! Being in Sports Illustrated is so much bigger than me. It’s sending a message to my community and the world that women of all different backgrounds, looks, upbringings… can stand together and be celebrated. Thank you so much @si_swimsuit & the entire team for giving me this incredible opportunity.
The move has been rather controversial though with some heavy debate about Halima’s hijab and burkini. “It’s not out of freedom that she wears this but out of an oppressive religious imposition,” Twitter user @relipoli commented. “That’s an incredibly wrong assumption,” user @peacefuljoon rebutted. “I wear my hijab bc I know that I’m beautiful and believe that only people close to me should see myself and my hair, this is the case for MANY Muslim women. It isn’t oppression; it’s a choice that we are free to make.”
Others made the argument that it was confusing for Halima to pose for the notoriously male-centered magazine. “If Muslim women wear their hijab in the name of choice, modesty, and to shun the inappropriate gazes of men…..then why would you want to parade yourself around in beauty pageants, posing with alluring pouty rouged lips in glamour magazines, and posing in a men’s magazine?” Twitter user @kimcox1811 debated. Nonetheless, Halima is standing proud of her beliefs and modesty and will continue to do that in her career.
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