Halima Aden followed the traditional route into the field of the American modeling industry – by participating in a beauty pageant. However, Aden was being anything but traditional, as the first woman to wear a hijab in Miss USA aged 19 she soon rocked past the local news and was put on the cover of CR Fashion Book by Carine Roitfeld herself. Soon enough, she was then signed to IMG models.
Despite being born in Kenya in the Kakuma refugee camp, Aden has redefined what it means to be both an American and a hijabi model. Having made her debut in February 2017, walking in Kanye’s Yeezy Season 5 show for New York Fashion Week, international runways aside, Aden has also gone on to grace editorial covers, becoming one of the first black hijab-wearing models to grace the cover of Vogue Arabia (along with Ikram Abdi Omar and Amina Adan) earlier this year as well as Allure last month and British Vogue alongside a host of other trailblazing models in May.
Within the fashion industry, she has branched out from modeling and in to the world of design. Having collaborated with modest clothing brand Modanisa by designing her own turban and shawl line, leading the way for American Muslim women. Last week, Aden opened the 2019 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Runway Show in a floral burkini designed by Cynthia Rowley with the words, “Don’t Change Yourself, Change the Game” emblazoned on the sleeves. This only furthers Aden’s relationship with the magazine, as Aden broke the internet last month when she became the first burkini-wearing model to be featured on a Sports Illustrated cover. For the shoot, Aden travelled back to Kenya where she was raised in the refugee camp, adding further significance to the already-momentous shoot.
Aden is not only committed to changing the fashion industry, but is using her influence to impact more than the fashion industry. After graduating from university, Aden became a UNICEF ambassador, with particular focus on children’s rights. For example, in March 2018 Aden inspired students at UNICEF’s Annual Summit by leading the Women’s Empowerment and Leadership panel session. She also delivered inspiring TED talks, and met with with migrant women attending “village-schools” and residing at local shelters in the southern Mexico state bordering Guatemal, and the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
At MILLE we can’t wait to see more of Aden.