From the Kakuma refugee camp to prestigious runways as world’s first hijab wearing model
One phone call changed modeling and fashion outlook as it led to the discovery of the world’s only hijab wearing super model.
November last year, 19-year-old Halima Aden, a freshman of St. Cloud State University made the phone call to Denise Wallace, Executive Co-Director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant asking if she could compete wearing her hijab.
Wallace recalls pulling up her information on her computer.
“Her photo popped up. And I remember distinctly going, “Wow, she is beautiful. I mean I just remember that reaction that I had,” She remarked.
Aden made headlines after the competition as the first hijab and burkini-sporting contestant in the history of the pageant, the bold move catapulting her career to new heights involving many “firsts”.
She was signed by IMG in February making her is the only hijab wearing model signed by a major modeling agency to date.
The Somali-American teen made her modeling debut on the catwalk of Kanye West’s Yeezy show in New York. She has also walked on the international runways of Italian fashion houses Max Mara and Alberta Ferretti alongside the likes of Gigi Hadid and Liu Wen.
The hijab, which is one of the most visible signs of Islamic culture – is going mainstream with advertisers, media giants and fashion firms promoting images of the traditional headscarf in ever more ways, thanks to Aden’s success.
Nike announced it is using its prowess in the sports and leisure market to launch a breathable mesh hijab in spring 2018, becoming the first major sports apparel maker to offer a traditional Islamic head scarf designed for competition.
American retailer American Eagle Outfitters created a denim hijab and of course, Aden was its main model, with the youthful headscarf selling out in less than a week on-line.
Born in Kakuma, a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya, Aden made it to the United States at the age of seven where she initially settled in St. Louis, Missouri.
In America she became an A-student and homecoming queen at her high school, but always noticed that there were no Muslim-Americans in the media that she could look up to, and her ultimate goal is to become a role model for Muslim-American youth.
Wallace is Aden’s manager and travels with her making sure that Aden’s customs are respected.
For now Aden is content being a champion for diversity in the modeling industry, but in time she hopes to return to Kakuma to work with refugee children to show them they all have the potential to become international stars.