Halima Aden took part in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant in November 2016, hoping to change how Muslim women are represented in today’s media.
The 19-year-old, thereby, became the first hijabi model to compete in the competition, and wear a burqini in the swimwear round.
Halima might not have won the crown but she’s been getting many ‘consolation prizes’ of late, namely a cover of CR Fashion Book, fashion campaigns, representation by IMG Models, runway gigs at New York and Milan Fashion Weeks, and global media coverage, reported Cosmopolitan.
Most recently, she came back to the pageant circuit, as a judge for Sunday’s 2017 Miss USA competition. Halima spoke about prepping for the big night in Vegas, the perks of being famous, what she looks for in a beauty queen, and what she hopes to embody as a role model.
Asked what drew her to pageants, Halima said, “Growing up, I couldn’t relate to anybody I saw in the media. I couldn’t pick a magazine or a channel and see someone who resembled me, or had [a similar] story. I wanted to change that.” The budding star realised that, in this current climate, people could use a positive story, image or a person that can represent Muslim women. “As for Miss USA… everyone knows the Miss Universe organisation. I think everyone tunes in for, or at least knows about, the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. So I knew that if I wanted to give pageants a try, it would be the right organisation for me,” she added.
Of course, Halima had lots to sort out before she could venture forth. “My family is first-generation American. For my mom, this is a totally different culture. She escaped civil war in Somalia, went to a refugee camp in Kenya and got us here. Her dreams were to see me educated, so I get why she was a little hesitant at first,” the model revealed.
“We had to talk about it a lot and I told her that education is important to me too, I’m in college now but taking a semester off, to look at it from all sides. I explained that, you might not know because you didn’t grow up here but I did and I didn’t get to see Muslim women represented and that affected me. It was just a matter of walking her through [my plans] step by step. But she’s now onboard!”
Then came the pageant but fortunately, Halima took it all in her stride. “Honestly, I didn’t worry much about what my gown was going to look like or what my walk would be. I mean, I’m not picky but I didn’t even get my outfit until two days before the pageant! And my makeup artist hooked me up with the skirt I wore, which belonged to one of the girls who was competing for Miss Teen Minnesota USA” she shared.
“It was all about the sisterhood! I was excited to have fun and to meet the other girls. I wanted to make new friends. These are all women who’ve accomplished so much at the local level, so why not? You can come home with a great network of women. Everyone was so welcoming and I did go home with a few new friends.”