Somali American Becomes Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s 1st Hijab-Clad Model

Halima Aden is featured in the magazine’s 2019 swimsuit issue wearing swimwear that covers the entire body except the face, hands and feet.

“Young girls who wear a hijab should have women they look up to in any and every industry. We are now seeing politicians, business women, television reporters, and other successful hijabi women in visible roles and that is the message we need to be sending,” Aden told the BBC. “The response has been incredible and I’m so honored that Sports Illustrated has taken the step to showcase the beauty that modestly dressed women possess.”

Aden, who was born in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, moved to the U.S. when she was 7. She said the photoshoot, which took place in Kenya, was an extremely emotional experience for her. 

“I keep thinking (back) to 6-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” Aden told the Sports Illustrated. “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.”

Aden also made history last year, becoming the first hijab-clad woman featured on the cover of British Vogue. Last month she and two other Muslim models were first black hijab-wearing models to appear on the cover of Vogue Arabia. 

“Growing up in the states, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab,” Aden says in the video shared by the magazine on Twitter.

The Burkini was created by Australian designer Aheda Zanetti, who said it was made to provide Muslim women an ability to participate in the Australia’s beach lifestyle. 

Zanetti says burkinis have also found fans among non-Muslims, including “Jews, Hindus, Christians, Mormons, women with various body issues.”

But it has also garnered controversy. Several towns in France have banned the wearing of burkinis, especially in community pools. The officials justified the ban by pointing to laws that forbids swimming in street clothes. Bans have also been imposed in a town in Germany and resorts in Morocco. 

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