When you are the first person to ever wear a burkini at a major USA beauty pageant, chances are the world is going to take notice!
A year on from making that bold move, 19-year old, Somali-American Halima Aden is now signed to IMG Models, and has already made her modelling debut at New York Fashion week. We caught up with Halima during a fashion tea party held in the elegant surroundings of The Ritz in London, organised by Modanisa Modest London Fashion Week.
Halima was born in a refugee camp in Kenya. At the age of six her family moved to America. Today, she calls Minnesota home, but she has always been proud of her Somali/Muslim heritage and it is this conviction that led her to refuse to compromise her identity in the pageant.
She’s previously remarked that beauty comes in many different forms. Shortly after the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant, in which she reached the semi-finals, Halima spoke to KARE-11 . She said: “A lot of people will look at you and will fail to see your beauty because you’re covered up and they’re not used to it. So, growing up, I just had to work on my people skills and give people a chance to really know me besides the clothing.”
Halima really is a breath of fresh air! She is an extremely articulate and genuine individual. Granted she has only been modelling since December 2016, but there is a real warmth to her personality and she is clearly embracing all the opportunities and experiences that come her way.
“It’s only been two months since I began modelling, but I love it. So far, it’s been fun. My favourite part is meeting new people because every day is different. Every job is different. Also, the travelling is great!”
I watched her as she greeted and posed for pictures with hundreds of fans, eager to meet her at the Modanisa London Modest Fashion Week, an event that brought together well-known Modest fashion designers, the leading figures of the fashion world and idols all around the world. She really is a wonderful ambassador for the Muslim woman of colour.
Proudly flying the flag for Modest fashion and extremely passionate about representation of Muslim women in the media. She explained why it’s so important to her.
“The image I help to present in the fashion industry is very much needed because growing up I didn’t have such images. When I flicked through a magazine I didn’t see any one that looked like me or dressed like me. Growing up I always felt like I was missing something. I think it’s important that young girls should not have to struggle for validation to be who they are. You should be unapologetically yourself, 24/7.”
Times are indeed changing. Also at the Modanisa #lmfw was another model who broke the mould back in 2015 when she was featured in a H&M fashion campaign. Mariah Idrissi has the distinction of being the first Muslim to appear in such a high profile campaign. Speaking back then, she said: “It always feels like women who wear hijab are ignored when it comes to fashion… so it’s amazing that a brand that is big has recognised the way we wear hijab.”
At Melanmag.com we recognise the importance of representation and how powerful it is for younger generations to see people like themselves to aspire to.
Halima said: “I rarely ever saw Muslim women celebrated in a good way. The times I did see them they were portrayed as victims or oppressed so it made things that little bit harder growing up and transitioning into an adult. I hope I’m giving the opportunity that I never had to other girls.”
It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like some small steps are being taken in the right direction when it comes to representation of Muslim women of colour in the fashion industry.
Speaking about how the industry has reacted so far, Halima said:
“They’ve uplifted me, if anything, because that image of a Muslim woman was missing from fashion so now that we are a part of it, it feels like everyone wants to do their best.”