In a historic moment for the fashion industry, supermodel Halima Aden became the first model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue wearing a hijab and burkini. The model, who is of Somalian origin, rocked a multicolored burkini on the cover with a matching headscarf and was photographed by Yu Tsai in a shoot at Kenya's Watamu Beach.
"I keep thinking (back) to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp," Aden told the magazine. "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." She said in a behind the scenes shoot, "Growing up in the United States, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab. Don't be afraid to be the first."
This isn't, however, the first time that she's made history with her outfits. In 2016, Aden became the first contestant in Miss Minnesota USA to wear a hijab and burkini, ultimately reaching the pageant's semi-finals. "There are so many Muslim women that feel like they don't fit society's standard of beauty," she said at the time, "I just wanted to tell them it's OK to be different, being different is beautiful, too."
She was also one of the first three models to wear a hijab on the cover of Vogue Arabia, which was the magazine's first group hijabi cover alongside Ikram Abdi Omar and Amina Adan. "I started wearing the hijab to mimic my mother. I’ve always looked up to her and wanted to be like her, it was so special to share that with the woman I most admire. It wasn’t always easy, though – when I started wearing it in school, I was often teased. Those years were hard. I think it’s important to remember that wearing a hijab is a woman’s personal choice. It doesn’t make her any better or worse than another Muslim woman," she had said in the issue.
She further said, "I think it's our duty and responsibility not to wait to be invited to the conversation but to initiate the conversation. Since day one, I’ve said, 'Don’t change yourself, change the game'"