Halima Aden: “Don’t Change Yourself, Change the Game”

Heads were turned and history was made in 2016 when Halima Aden, a Somalian refugee turned international model, competed in the Miss Minnesota pageant, in a hijab.  

Halima Aden. Photo Credit: The National

Halima finished the pageant as a semi-finalist however this was only the beginning of her promising career. Not long after, she was signed to one of the top modelling agencies, IMG Models, making her the first hijab-wearing model under their wing.

Soon, runway shows, magazine covers, and campaigns came pouring in for the 19-year-old who always believed diversity was what made fashion beautiful.

Halima was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and moved to the United States at the age of seven with her mother and younger brother. Modelling wasn’t something Halima had always intended to go into however her success at the pageant introduced her into the fashion world and she has been killing it ever since.

She made her first fashion week debut with Kanye’s Season 5 Yeezy collection where she, unsurprisingly, stole the show. Wearing a floor-length tan fur coat and her hijab tightly secured around her face, Halima walked down the runway and into the hearts of millions of Muslim girls around the world.

Soon, we saw the newbie gracing the covers of Vogue, Allure, Elle and most recently, Paper magazine as well as rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the industry including the Hadid sisters, Alessandra Ambrosio and, (brace yourselves), Rihanna.

She walked for Sherri Hill at this year’s New York Fashion week and also walked at her first Paris show this year with Tommy Hilfiger. It seems her persistence to challenge stereotypes in the industry has worked in her favour as she continues to grace covers and make headlines.

Photo Credit: WWD

As well as being a game-changing international model, Halima is also a vocal advocate for the rights of Muslim women. One of her main goals with pursuing such an unlikely career for a Muslim girl, was to show other Muslim woman that they can do anything they want, without sacrificing their identity and embracing it instead.

Halima was named a UNICEF ambassador in 2018 and has since used her platform to share her story as a refugee and express her passion for helping others as well as encourage support and awareness for UNICEF’s humanitarian relief work.

Her confidence to contend in a competition where nobody looked like her, to rock a burqini in the swimsuit portion with grace and poise, to embrace her identity and all that comes with it on a worldwide platform is truly inspiring. It’s no wonder so many people have been moved by her unwavering effort to change perceptions and encourage the celebration diversity.

This may be the first time you’ve heard of Halima Aden, but it sure won’t be the last.

Have you heard of Halima’s work? Let us know in the comments below