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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Halima Aden: deconstructing the Somali-American model

The 21-year old, who was in Dubai this week, can be credited with making the hijab a common sight on international runways

Halima Aden at the Max Mara store launch in The Dubai Mall on October 22. Courtesy Max Mara
Halima Aden at the Max Mara store launch in The Dubai Mall on October 22. Courtesy Max Mara

Halima Aden first made headlines in 2016 when she became the first Muslim woman to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, wearing a hijab throughout and a burqini during the swimsuit round. She only finished in the top 15 of the competition, but Aden had made her mark.

She was born in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, in 1997, and moved to the United States when she was 6, with her mother and younger brother. She went to school at St Cloud State University in Minnesota, and decided to sign up for the pageant to combat the negativity and fear surrounding the hijab in certain parts of the West.

Soon after the competition, she became the first hijab-wearing model to be signed on by IMG (the agency represents top models such as the Hadid sisters). She was even roped in by Kanye West to walk for his Yeezy Season 5 collection during New York Fashion Week. Her turn on the Milan Fashion Week 2017 runway for MaxMara placed the then 19-year-old firmly in the fashion spotlight.

Aden has since represented brands such as Fenty Beauty, Nike, American Eagle, The Modist and Dolce & Gabbana, and appeared on the covers of Vogue Arabia and Allure, among other magazines. Currently, she is fronting the campaign for Contemporary Muslim Fashions, the first modestwear exhibition taking place in the US, at the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco.

Aden has also made inroads into the UAE: last year, she was part of Dubai’s inaugural Modest Fashion Week and launched Etihad Airways’ Runway to Runway programme; while this year, she attended Rihanna’s make-up masterclass in Dubai in September, and launched the new MaxMara store in The Dubai Mall on Monday.

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Read more:

Halima Aden launches Max Mara's Middle East capsule in Dubai — in pictures

The term modestwear fails to acknowledge a wider movement

Modestwear gets first dedicated exhibition in the United States