News by Maddy Coffey

Adding to her portfolio of firsts, twenty-one-year-old model Halima Aden has become the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini to appear in Sports Illustrated (SI).

Known for its display of minimalist swimwear and sultry models, this is a drastic change for SI and its barely-there bikini shots that make up much of the magazine’s usual coverage. “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 a video for SI, as she models several head-to-toe swimwear designs. “Don’t be afraid to be the first.”

Aden’s spread for SI was shot at Watamu Beach in Kenya, where she was born in the Kakuma Refugee Camp after her family fled civil war in Somalia. There, a young Aden suffered several cases of malaria, before leaving the camp and migrating to the US with her family at the age of six.

Despite this she says, “I still remember the smiles, the community, I remember a great childhood. It’s quite an amazing feeling because girls will see they can wear a burkini and hopefully feel inspired to join their swim team in school… It’s just another tool to feel represented.”

Aden is no stranger to breaking boundaries. In 2016 she was the first fully-covered Muslim contestant to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, aiming to challenge misconceptions about Islam.

This led to Aden’s signing to IMG Models, and appearance on various covers including Vogue Arabia and Teen Vogue, as well as ad campaigns for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line. In 2018, she became the first woman of colour to wear a hijab on the cover of British Vogue.

Aden continues to use her empowering motto of “Don’t change yourself… change the GAME!” We can’t wait to see what’s next.

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