You could easily say that history has been made this month. Well, not ALL history, but history where fashion and sports are concerned. All joking aside, when veiled Somali-American model Halima Aden graces the pages of the notorious Sports Illustrated magazine, wearing her hijab and a burkini, well that is something to talk about.
Sports Illustrated has always faced widespread criticism by feminists over its objectification of women and its lack of diversity. Halima is a Somali refugee who has single handedly revolutionised the world of fashion or at least been lucky enough to be available when all those fashion brands decided to embrace diversity and gender equality. The decision to feature Halima wearing all sorts of designer burkinis, hijabs, and head scarves runs deep on so many levels. This shoot emphasises the fact that women have much more freedom of choice in this age and time, so if they choose a burkini over a regular swimsuit, even if it’s not for religious reasons, then people should respect and accept that. Add to that the fact that Sports Illustrated would have hit so many buttons with this shoot, including the lack of ethnicity and diversity claims. They have also recently featured Winnie Harlow, the Canadian model with vitiligo, and plus-size model Hunter McGrady will also be featured next to Halima.
The 21-year-old was flown back to Kenya her home country for the photoshoot, and for Halima that felt like coming full circle. “I keep thinking back to the six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp.” she said. “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 continued.
MJ Day, the editor of the magazine claimed that Halima is one of the great beauties of our time and one can’t help but get taken with her intelligence, enthusiasm, and authenticity. Halima was born in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya where she spent the first 7 years of her life. Halima maintained her Kenyan traditions and her Islamic faith after she moved to the US, she even competed in beauty pageants wearing her hijab. At 19 she made it to the semi-finals of the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant and her career took off after that getting featured by various brands including Nike, as well as walking the catwalks for the major designer brands.