Halima Aden: Changing The Fashion Industry
The Muslim Refugee That Took The Fashion Industry By Storm
By Hana Maher
For decades, the Fashion and Modeling industry had been exclusive with a severe lack of diversity, so much so that it projected a certain level of beauty standards that enabled the female insecurities to foster. But that was before Halima Aden strutted on to the scene, kicked the door open and used her platform to challenge stereotypes. In fact, the 22-year-old “black, Muslim, Somalian-American” hailing from Kenya single-handedly shifted the fashion industry’s gaze away from women’s bodies and subsequently redefined beauty standards.
Halima first received national attention when she became the first hijab-donning contestant in the 2016 Miss Minnesota Scholarship Pageant. Although she didn’t bag the coveted title, the UNICEF ambassador rose to fame after IMG Models – the very same modeling agency that represents Bella and Gigi Hadid – signed her on. And what ensued was the first of many groundbreaking milestones as Halima became the first Muslim woman to don the hijab on the international high-fashion catwalk when she debuted for Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5.
The beauty, that gave the industry a whiff of freshness and diversity, undoubtedly turned heads as she soon found herself walking for Maxmara, Alberta Ferretti and even on the catwalks of the 2016 Milan Fashion Week and London Modest Week. Halima was also one of the many faces of Rihanna’s Fenty beauty campaign. But the trailblazer shows no signs of slowing down as she later cemented her legacy by becoming the first hijab-donning model to grace the covers of Vogue Arabia, Allure, British Vogue and Teen Vogue.
While the Minnesota-based model is slowly aiding the fashion and modeling industry to take progressive steps towards an all-inclusive industry, Halima revealed that she had been challenging the norms long before she gained national and international fame. As one of the TED speakers at Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp last year, Halima relayed that she was the first Muslim homecoming queen at her high school as well as the first Somali senator at her college. And in her own words, the inspiring woman conveyed that, “I’m not afraid to be the first; to step out on my own, to seek risks and changes because that’s what being a minority’s about. It’s about using yourself as a best soul to create change and being a human representation of diversity.”
Halima isn’t just the face and the up-and-coming ‘it’ girl that is breaking the glass ceiling. She is perhaps the quintessential role model that everyone – regardless of gender, race and religion – needs. Apart from being an advocate for the rights of Muslim women and refugees, Halima proved that our differences are our strengths while reminding us that any form of discrimination and segregation should never hinder us from pursuing our dreams.