Halima Aden Makes History as Sports Illustrated First Muslim Model to Rock a Hijab and Burkini

Somali-American model Halima Aden is the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini in Sports Illustrated’s (SI) coveted swimsuit edition. In trying to diversify its models, Sports Illustrated has featured different types of models from various ethnicities, ages and with a broader range of body types over the past few years.

The magazine even chose to do an homage to Halima Aden by shooting her segment in her birth country, Kenya. She migrated to the United States when she was 7- years old from the Kakuma Refugee Camp. It’s her first time shooting with SI and the photo shoot took place at Watamu Beach, Kenya with renowned fashion photographer Yu Tsai.

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“This is literally a dream come true,” Halima told the magazine in an interview. “I can’t even tell you how this feels. I keep thinking to 6-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp. So to grow up to live the American dream, to come back to Kenya and shoot for Sports Illustrated in the most beautiful parts of Kenya—I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.”

Interestingly enough, Halima Aden wore a hijab and a burkini when she competed in the Miss Minnesota 2017 pageant. She placed in the Top 15. Halima went on to sign with IMG models and is an incredibly successful international model. She has also become an advocate for the expansion of beauty acceptance of women from various backgrounds.

Although Muslim models like Adesuwa Aighewi, Ikran Abdi Omar, Taleedah Tamer, and Kadija Diawara have been incredible forces in the fashion industry, Halima Aden is making strides in the fashion world for representing modest Muslim women.

She is also trying to normalize the perception of Muslim women who choose to wear a traditional hijab and burkini.

“With all the negativity right now … I know so many women who stopped wearing the hijab because they were scared,” she told TODAY. “… I wanted to inspire Muslim women to challenge themselves … (but) I didn’t want to compromise my values.”

Even as a proud Muslim woman, Halima embodies American values.