Ever since Halima Aden strutted her way to the semifinals of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant last year, becoming the first contestant to wear a hijab and a burkini, she has been unstoppable.
First, the outspoken Somali-American refugee who was born in a camp in Kenya landed the cover of CR Fashion Book. She was interviewed by fellow Somali, Iman (yes that Iman) about breaking stereotypes, rejecting the notion of being a “perfect Muslim” and telling men to “stop judging women.”
She signed with IMG models, and modeled for Yeezy at New York Fashion Week and Alberta Ferretti and Max Mara at Milan Fashion Week this year, becoming one of the first Muslim women to walk Fashion Week in a hijab (according to Allure). Needless to say, she is killing it, braces and all.
In a recent interview with Allure, Aden discussed her journey from becoming the first Muslim homecoming queen in her town, to beauty pageant contestant, to high fashion model. According to Aden, part of being a trailblazer starts with not going out of your way to fit in:
I made a lot of mistakes growing up, trying so hard to fit in. I got so lost trying to please everybody. But the thing was, I didn’t fit into any one category, like Somali-Muslim or even American. And at the same time I thought, Why haven’t I seen anybody dressed like me in these pageants? Why isn’t that a category? Why isn’t it normal? And eventually I realized I needed to create my own category. To forget them, and just do me.
Aden also said she has high hopes for diversity in the fashion industry, particularly when it comes to Muslim women and hijabis:
"I really would just like for all this to be normalized. Right now I’m getting a lot of press because I’m wearing a hijab, and that’s not something you see in the fashion industry: It’s new; it’s kind of shocking. We have to start somewhere, and I’m happy to be the first, and I hope it inspires other girls to also be themselves, especially Muslim girls, because we are told so often that we can’t do things. I’m just looking forward to more empowerment for us all, and opportunities for everyone to try new things. Hopefully we will get to a place soon where a hijab in a fashion show is just as normal as anything else.”
Two years ago, Mariah Idrissi made history as the first H&M model wearing a hijab. Last year, Muslim Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan sent hijab-clad models down the runway for her New York Fashion Week show. There is some progress happening in the fashion world, but as Aden says, hopefully it’s not long before hijabis just aren’t a big deal.