Halima Aden is a 19 year old model breaking down stereotypes in the fashion industry and I’m here for it. Although originally from the historically beautiful country Somalia (was once upon a time a holiday destination), Halima was born in a Kenyan refugee camp due to conflict in her country.
Fast forward 19 years and now she is slowly becoming an icon. From walking down the catwalk for Kanye West’s Season 5 collection to making her debut yesterday at Milan Fashion Week, she strutted her stuff at the Alberta Ferretti show. This girl is on fire! Striding along in the very industries notorious for setting unattainable fashion and beauty standards, and still struggling with the idea of diversity.
Not only is she representing hijabi girls and women around the world but also showcasing that there is indeed a space for them in the industry. As for women like myself who don’t wear the hijab this symbolises the fact women do not have to be half naked in order to be recognised for their beauty and strength. You can be all covered up and let your confidence, defiance and hunger to challenge the norm shine through.
Aden first came under the spotlight when she became a contestant at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant last year. Becoming the first woman to compete in a hijab and for the swimwear round she switched it up and wore a burkini which was something never seen before in the competition.
Ok so I won’t lie and say I agree with the reasoning behind the hijab. I don’t, once upon a time in Somalia as supermodel Iman pointed out in a recent interview with Halima many women in Somalia did not wear the hijab when she was growing up. Only showing that Muslim women around the world need to keep in mind that their religious identity of being a muslim woman/girl is not tied in whether or not they wear a headscarf.
Just because of my belief does that mean millions of women around the world who do wear the hijab should not have their voices heard and faces represented in the media? They absolutely should. I admire her courage and tenacity to go out into the world in a time like this and challenge both Muslims and non-Muslims alike on the idea of beauty and redefine what it is to be a Muslim girl.
I believe representation matters, and for the same reasons she entered the pageant is exactly the same reason I too entered the a pageant last year (Miss Universe GB 2016), not enough Black women in the beauty and fashion industry. I cannot stress how much representation matters. For that reason just because I do not agree with the hijab does not mean that I will ignore the fact that Hijab wearing women are not represented at all in the fashion industry. Some of the most fashionable women I have met in my life have been friends and family that wear the hijab. Like your average woman they love fashion, so need to see a reflection of themselves in the media and the retailers that they buy from.
Beauty comes in different shapes, shades and sizes and it’s highly ignorant to not have that reflected in the fashion industry. No, the world is not full of women who are white with blonde or brunette hair and pale skin. No, white people are not the only group of people that spend money in high fashion stores like Gucci and Prada (go to Harrods and see what I mean). Yes, the fashion industry needs to change and now.
Let’s not forget that wearing a headscarf is a choice, its her choice and if she decides to keep wearing it in the long term, then I’m sure many people like myself would happily support her. Go Halima!