Some good news in the current bleak landscape of headlines: 19 year old Halima Aden has become the first model to feature on the cover of a Western glossy wearing a headscarf (although The Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain’s Good Housekeeping cover last summer was a first on these shores), hopefully paving the way not only for better/ existent representation of Muslim women in the fashion and beauty industries, but for greater diversity overall. Proving that faith and fashion aren’t, in fact, incompatible, Halima is making designers and brands bend to her, and not the other way around, with the likes of Nike and Dolce & Gabbana not only depicting hijab-wearing women, but designing hijabs for said women too (Halima’s sweat-wicking Nike Pro hajib would be especially welcome in these current climes).
Halima Aden is the cover star of Allure’s July 2017 edition, with the tagline ‘This is American Beauty’. It just so happens that she’s a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. About time…
Even more remarkable is the fact that Somali-American Aden was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, where both food and water was hard to come by and violence was rife. That said, in an interview with American Vogue last week, Halima credits the camp’s religious and cultural diversity and inclusivity for her own open-minded outlook, and it’s clear that she’s not on board with judging women in any capacity, as evidenced in reference to a friend that has a fondness for ‘short shorts’:
“I’m like, girl, if that’s what makes you feel happy and beautiful—go ahead. I’m willing to stand up for her. But it’s ironic because people will slut-shame her, but then apparently they think I’m oppressed because I choose to do the opposite and cover my body.”
Halima has neatly summarised the fact that as women, we often can’t win, especially when religious and cultural norms are brought to the fore. Thankfully she’s not playing by fashion’s often restrictive rules, refusing to wear swimsuits in previous beauty pageants she competed in, and from Max Mara to Kanye West’s Yeezy, she rocks the runway in a wardrobe of coloured and neutral hijabs. Rather than hamper her, Halima tells Allure that her hijab is more likely to instil much needed boundaries when modelling:
“I have much more to offer than my physical appearance, and a hijab protects me against ‘You’re too skinny,’ ‘You’re too thick,’ ‘Look at her hips,’ ‘Look at her thigh gap.’ I don’t have to worry about that.”
Not that she feels that Muslim women need wear a headscarf of course- she herself started wearing one to imitate her hero (her mother), but she states that women should interpret their religion however they please. She’s been bullied in the past for her choice, and is yet to meet another model wearing a hijab, but she’s determined to be a role-model for young girls and women scanning through magazines who wouldn’t normally see themselves mirrored in the shiny pages before them. Here’s to that.
Read Halima’s full Allure interview here