Posing in a headpiece from Nike’s first hijab collection, the 19-year-old trailblazer Halima Aden looked luminescent on July’s issue cover of the top American women’s beauty magazine Allure titled: “This is American Beauty.”
The model’s formative years were spent in a Kenyan refugee camp, after which she and her mother moved to the U.S. when she was just seven years-old. She told Allure magazine that she started wearing the hijab at the age of eight by imitating her mother.
“Every little girl looks up to her mom so much – that’s your first hero,” she said.
Aden rose to fame after participating in the 2016 Miss Minnesota pageant, becoming the first ever contestant to compete in a hijab and burkini. Since then, she has gone on to become one of the modelling world’s most famous stars, walking the runway for brands like Max Mara and Yeezy.
In her interview with Allure, the successful model opened up about her rise to stardom, religion, and why she chooses to wear the hijab.
“Society puts so much pressure on girls to look a certain way,” she said. “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.”
Allure’s Molly Young writes that Aden’s robust presence in the industry is not intended to be politically charged, and that “if there is symbolism to be read into her, it is in our work, not hers.” But there is timeliness to using a Muslim model to portray American beauty during a period of travel bans, prejudice, and a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Supermodel Iman and up-and-coming model Halima Aden are speaking out about what it means to take pride in being Muslim women from Somalia, and it’s inspiring. Aden revealed that for her, wearing her hijab represents “freedom of choice.”
“A lot of people have the misconception that, as a Muslim woman, I am somehow against women wearing bikinis,” Aden told Iman. “No, I want women to feel comfortable and confident in whatever they wear.”
Iman shared her own experience as a black Muslim woman who chooses not to wear a hijab, adding: “I’ve heard all types of critiques—as a Somali girl, as a model, as a mom, as a Muslim who does not wear a hijab, marrying a white man, my late husband David Bowie. But you know, I live my truth.”
Both women agreed that in spite of their differences, and in spite of the current political climate in Somalia, they both feel an incredible amount of pride in being from Somalia and in being Muslim women.
Iman put it best when she said, “I’m always my father’s daughter, and I’ll always be a Somali girl. And that is the pride that you put in yourself, the pride of yourself and never lowering your worth. You don’t have to lower yourself. They’ll meet you where you stand.”