Halima Aden

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What happens when a six-year-old Somalian Muslim girl born in a Kenyan refugee camp moves to St. Cloud Minnesota? In the case of Halima Aden, she becomes prom and homecoming queen of her high school, a semi-finalist in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, and makes history as the first pageant contestant in the United States to wear a hijab and burkini. Halima was a semi-finalist in the pageant, but scored a contract with IMG Models—the first hijab-wearing model signed to a major modeling agency. She makes waves in the industry by holding onto her values; continuing to wear her hijab and dressing modestly on shoots.

Last November she admitted to Jenna Sauers of Harper’s BAZAAR that she passed on many shows she was looking forward to because of wardrobe restrictions, but almost like a sign from above to stay on her path, MaxMara presented her with looks custom made for her, hijab included. “That experience this season really reminded me that I'm doing the right thing. I don't need to change myself,” she said. For Aden, representation, and the chance to participate, is everything. “Anytime I saw somebody who dressed like me in a movie, the character was someone oppressed,” she explained to Sauers. “There was just a narrative to it that didn't match mine. Same thing with the news. Every time I saw somebody who looked like me, chances were they were doing something bad. Now, I get to represent my community to the majority.” And represent she has. Halima has graced the cover of acclaimed fashion magazines like Allure, Vogue Arabia, Glamour and Grazia, walked in Alberta Ferretti and MaxMara fashion shows, and participated in campaigns for brands like Nike, SemSem and Fenty Beauty.

Halima acknowledges the possibility that diversity is just the flavor of the month in the fashion industry but that doesn’t stop her from taking full advantage of her platform, partnering with Unicef and taking speaking engagements. “If what is happening to me is simply the fashion community making some sort of fleeting statement then I am going to make that statement work as hard as it can,” she told Chloe Fox of Financial Times. “I treat every job as if it’s my last.”

Style + BeautyTeneille Craig