Boundary-breaking Muslim supermodel Halima Aden has made history once again by becoming the first model to wear a hijab and burkini in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
In 2016, Aden became the first contestant in Miss Minnesota USA to wear a hijab and burkini, ultimately reaching the pageant’s semi-finals.
“There are so many Muslim women that feel like they don’t fit society’s standard of beauty,” she told CNN at the time. “I just wanted to tell them it’s OK to be different, being different is beautiful, too.”
She shared a similar sentiment at her Sports Illustrated shoot. “Growing up in the United States, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab,” she said in a behind-the-scenes video. “Don’t be afraid to be the first.”
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@halima is #shatteringperceptions as the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini on the pages of #SISwim. Click the link in bio to learn more about her historic shoot in Kenya. (📷: @yutsai88) • • • @hemingwayscollection @officialkenyaairways #HemingwaysCollection #LetKQTakeYouThere
Aden, who is Somali-American, grew up in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, before moving with her family to the US at the age of seven.
Her Sports Illustrated shoot, photographed by Yu Tsai, took place at Kenya’s Watamu Beach.
“I keep thinking (back) to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” Aden told the magazine. “So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya — I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.”
Again, this isn’t the first time Aden has made history — or even the first time this year. In March, she was one of three black hijabi models featured on the cover of Vogue Arabia — the magazine’s first group hijabi cover — alongside Ikram Abdi Omar and Amina Adan.
In April 2018, she broke new ground in British Vogue, as the first hijabi woman on the cover.
“I empower women by staying true to myself and also encouraging them to go out and not be scared to be the first,” Aden told CNN on International Women’s Day in March. “If you don’t see yourself represented in any given field, take it upon yourself to be the one.”