Hair by Nai’vasha Johnson at the Wall Group; makeup by Grace Ahn at Julian Watson Agency; manicure by Honey at Exposure NY
Two years ago, Halima Aden made history as the first-ever contestant to compete in the Miss Minnesota pageant in a hijab and burkini. Now, the Somali-American is making history again, this time as the first model to be featured in Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Issue wearing a hijab and burkini, the outlet announced today.
Aden journeyed back to her stomping grounds of Kenya to shoot her first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit spread, which was special for the 21-year-old who was born at a refugee camp and lived in the country before leaving for the United States at age seven.
“Don’t change yourself .. Change the GAME!! Ladies anything is possible!!! Being in Sports Illustrated is so much bigger than me. It’s sending a message to my community and the world that women of all different backgrounds, looks, upbringings… can stand together and be celebrated,” Halima wrote in an Instagram post announcing her SI feature. “Thank you so much @si_swimsuit & the entire team for giving me this incredible opportunity.”
Shot by Yu Tsai, Aden posed on the shore of Watamu Beach in two custom burkinis, including a color block suit designed by Cynthia Rowley. “When we were approached to create a custom burkini for Halima, I was so honored,” Rowley said in a press release. “Halima is making strides in the industry through her powerful voice and she is now the first model in history to wear a burkini in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. This moment in particular marks a huge win for women’s empowerment, shattering outdated standards of beauty and identity in the industry.”
Stateside, Halima has climbed through the fashion ranks and upended the face of the industry by landing campaigns for Nike and Fenty Beauty, and walking the runways of Yeezy, Alberta Ferretti, Max Mara, and Christian Cowan.