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Halima Aden: The first model to wear a hijab and burkini in “Sports Illustrated”

Somali-American model Halima Aden is the newest member of the “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit” edition’s cover girls and has made history as the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini in the magazine. This feat affirms the beauty in modest hijabi women the world over.



Halima Aden came full circle recently when she travelled to Kenya, her birth place and where she lived till the age of seven, to shoot her first Sports Illustrated spread. The scene was set at Watamu beach on the Kenyan coast, with photographer Yu Tsai and Aden sporting a full hijab and burkini. This is a first in the history of the magazine.

“I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this very country, was in a refugee camp,” Halima said during her shoot. “To grow up to live the American dream [and] come back to Kenya to shoot for Sports Illustrated in the most beautiful parts of Kenya – I don’t think that’s a story anybody could make up.”

Since her debut as the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant to her British Vogue cover in 2018, where she was again the first model of colour to wear a hijab, Aden has “proved that there is a place for modest Muslim women in the fashion industry”, states Swim Daily.

The aim of the Sport Illustrated Swimsuit edition was to impress on women everywhere that “whether you are wearing a one-piece, two-piece, or burkini, you are the pilot of your own beauty.”


The editor of Sport Illustrated Swimsuit, MJ Day, added, “We believe beauty knows no boundaries. 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.”


Read: Meet Somali trailblazer Halima Aden, the first hijab-wearing model on cover of Allure magazine

“We bonded immediately over the idea of her participating in this year’s issue,” Day continued. “We both believe the ideal of beauty is vast and subjective. We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing, based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel you’re most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY.”

Aden, who appears in the May swimsuit edition, wearing a number of different colourful burkinis, spoke to BBC about the experience, saying, “Young girls who wear a hijab should have women they look up to in any and every industry. We are now seeing politicians, business women, television reporters and other successful hijabi women in visible roles. That is the message we need to be sending.”

“The response has been incredible and I’m so honoured that Sports Illustrated has taken the step to showcase the beauty that modestly dressed women possess.”