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Halima Aden has made history as the first model to pose in a hijab and a burkini in the 2019 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, which is out May 8.
The Somali-American model and activist was born in Kenya at the Kakuma Refugee camp and lived there until she was 7 before moving to the United States. Aden returned to Kenya for the groundbreaking photo shoot, which was shot at Watamu Beach by photographer Yu Tsai.
“I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” the 21-year-old model told Sports Illustrated during the shoot. “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.”
The Sports Illustrated shoot isn’t the first time Aden has made headlines for sporting a hijab. She was the first woman to wear a hijab during the Miss Minnesota USA pageant in 2016, where she ultimately placed as a semi-finalist. Aden later signed with IMG models, where she uses her platform to champion diversity in the world of fashion. She made her runway debut in 2017 during New York Fall Fashion Week as a model for Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 show.
“We believe beauty knows no boundaries. I admire Halima, and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador,” said Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day. “She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. When we met, I was instantaneously taken by her intelligence, enthusiasm and authenticity.”
“We bonded immediately over the idea of her participating in this year’s issue. We both believe the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective,” Day continued. “We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, you are worthy.”
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