Halima Aden first rose to high acclaim after she became the first ever Miss Minnesota USA Pageant contestant to compete while wearing a hijab and burkini last year. Since then, Aden has been featured on the front cover of CR Fashion Book, is now signed with IMG models, and recently walked in various Autumn/Winter 2017 shows, from Yeezy Season 5 in New York to Alberta Ferretti in Milan, all while wearing the hijab.
Born in a Kenyan refugee camp, Aden immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of six. At 19-years-old, the hijab-wearing model’s story of success has gone far beyond a source of inspiration and serves as an indispensable example of hope in an increasingly challenging current climate. As a product of her dual Somali-American heritage, Aden’s rise to fashion stardom functions most importantly as a counter narrative to the rising unjust depictions of migrants and Muslims that we may commonly observe in the media.
With the growing need for acceptance and inclusion, the presence of Aden within the fashion industry marks a shift in the attitudes held by established cultural spaces and simultaneously works to recognise the need for diversity within such spaces. For Aden, the issue of representation is a fundamental aspect in attempting to progress towards a more liberal and inclusive society.
Speaking to i-D, Aden revealed “Growing up, I knew what it was like not having representation. When I say representation, I just mean people who resemble you or someone you could relate to, or someone who even dresses like you. Not having somebody that you can look up to, it did affect me in a way. If I can give that opportunity to a girl, where she can flip through a magazine and see someone dressed like her, or someone who looks like her or has a similar background, I think that’s important.”
Aden went on to say, “There’s a lack of communication and people don’t really understand about Somali culture. Me being out in the public and displaying my religion, my faith, being different to what the stereotype is — I think that has opened a lot of people’s eyes.”
Reflecting on the issue of increased focus on the Muslim community after the US Presidential election, Aden said “I don’t want fear associated with Muslims. I want us to be humanised because the majority of us are just your everyday normal Americans. That’s a side that we have neglected and we have not shown to the world. When a white person commits a crime we don’t blame all Caucasians. We blame that one person and call them out by name. Every group deserves that. I don’t need people to feel afraid when people see my hijab. I don’t need them to think I’m oppressed. This is a choice, just like any other wardrobe that I pick.”
In a time where executive orders that would ban Somali citizens from entering the US are being pushed forward, Aden stands as an eminent figure illustrating an alternative vision. In promoting an optimistic and progressive view of modern American-Muslims, Aden is rightfully destabilising the inauthentic images that seek to represent her community.
Have you caught the waves Halima Aden is making in the world of fashion? Let us know @SANTmagazine
Words: Sameeha Shaikh
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