Beauty is not one size fits all
Halima Aden was born in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. When she was 7 years old, her family immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Minnesota. Aden broke boundaries when she became the first Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant contestant to compete in a hijab and burkini. She didn't win the pageant, but she did win something much greater: a contract with international modeling agency IMG Models.
After her contract, she has been booked for international fashion shows, even walking runways in Milan. Aden was then contacted by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue editors about her participating in their iconic annual issue. They even said they'll do the photo shoot in her home country to which Aden was thrilled and immediately said yes.
In her issue, Aden told Sports Illustrated, "It's a dream come true… 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." She then went on to say "I kept thinking (back) to six-year-old me who, in this same country [Kenya], was in a refugee camp, 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."
The SI Swimsuit editor MJ Day said she admired Aden's "intelligence, enthusiasm, and authenticity," and selected her for the issue because "beauty knows no boundaries." In a video of the photo shoot, Aden models several styles of burkini-one a flowy silver and red, another a sleek-color blocked wetsuit-which cover everything but her hands, feet, and face. Photos of the self-described "burkini babe" will appear in the 2019 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, on newsstands May 8.
As a Muslim girl living in the US, I think it's groundbreaking that Halima Aden did this. When I look at the pictures of Aden, I see myself. I've never seen a Muslim woman on a cover of a huge magazine, much less in a burkini. It's fantastic that Sports Illustrated decided to use Halima Aden and showcase her beauty in a modest fashion. It also helps expose audiences to different cultures and customs, meaning what some Muslim women wear to the beach.