21 December 2020
On the last week of November, while most laid around with hefty amounts of turkey in their system, 23-year old Somali-American model Halima Aden made the courageous decision to announce her departure from the modeling industry via Instagram.
“They could call me tomorrow and not even for $10 million would I ever risk compromising my hijab ever again,” she wrote on her story.
Halima Aden is most notably known as being the first Muslim hijab–wearing model appearing on the cover of Vouge, modeling for Kaye West’s Yezzy sportwear, Rihannas’s Fenty Beauty cosmetics brand, and she even walked the runway during New York Fashion Week.
Halima Aden during Fall 2018 New York Fashion Week. (Image courtesy Google).
Growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing war in Somalia, Aden moved to Minnesota where she then competed in her first pageant, Miss Minnesota, at the age of 19. Most pageants include a swimsuit evaluation, and all were astounded when she appeared in a burkini–full coverage swimwear–rather than a traditional bikini.
The hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women for the purpose of modesty. The hijab demands dignity and respect, and allows for women to be judged by their actions, not by their looks. Thinking about it, fashion pretty much contradicts the hijab in every possible way.
“I remember wanting to be the ‘hot hijabi’ as if that didn’t just defeat the whole purpose. A hot mess is what it truthfully was,” said Aden.
On her Instagram story, Halima also claimed that she “was just so desperate back then for any ‘representation’…I lost touch with who I was.” Although some Muslim women were content with this so called ‘representation,’ it wasn’t at all accurate. The industry was not displaying the true hijab but rather molding it into what the public wanted to see and what was deemed to be “in style.” Halima herself even displayed images proving this with her hijab either concealed from view, or not worn correctly. She described it as “essentially erasing” her headscarf.
In a brief documentary shot in 2018 with Al Jazeera, Aden’s mother persistently expressed disapproval of her daughter’s profession, saying that “what you are doing is not part of our culture.” Aden’s defense was that her family believed she would one day be pressured into removing her hijab, and she claimed she would never. Her claim can most definitely be refuted as she said if she was to carry on down this path, she would have lost her hijab completely.
“My mom asked me to quit modeling a LONG time ago. I wish I wasn’t so defensive. Sis was literally the only person who had the purest intentions for me,” said Aden.
Halima Aden with her mother. (Image courtesy Halima Aden’s Instagram).
One of America’s most prominent models, Gigi Hadid, expressed her love and support for Aden’s decisions. On her Instagram story she wrote, “Everyone should go check out @Halima’s story right now. It is so important, as a hijabi or not, to self reflect and get back on track with what feels genuine to us. It’s the only way to feel truly fulfilled.” She added, “My sis Halima, you have inspired me since the day I met you and you continue to make me proud.”
Fashion Model Gigi Hadid and Halima Aden during Milan Fashion Week. (Image courtesy of Google).
Despite these encouraging words, some were quick to judge her decision. Many users expressed their disagreement saying she was being foolish and throwing her whole life away. One user has even said, “If you don’t want to continue then leave peacefully and quietly…just an attention seeker good riddance.” This was not at all the case. She had announced her story publicly hoping to inspire countless young women across the globe, which is exactly what she did. The fact that Halima could address her journey, publicly criticize herself, and review her actions shows she has made peace with herself and is not afraid to stand up for her beliefs. Not many could do the same. Like Gigi Hadid encouraged, “keep shining.”