Connect with us


Beautiful People: Halima Aden will conquer the World



In our current political climate, it’s inspiring to see someone like Halima Aden, a Somali-American Kenyan refugee, taking over the industry. The model, who turned 20 just days ago and still has a mouth full of braces, got her start competing in the Miss Minnesota pageant, where she was recognized for being the first participant in the competition’s history to wear a burkini and a hijab; she finished as a semi-finalist. Her admirable commitment to modesty has grabbed the attention of industry heavyweights like Kanye West, who cast her in a Yeezy show, Rihanna for Fenty Beauty and Carine Roitfeld, who put her on the cover of CR Fashion Book’s tenth issue. Aden has since covered Allure and Grazia.

Even with those accomplishments, however, there’s no chance the proud Muslim woman is about to slow down.
When (and where) are you most creative?

I love make-up! While I wasn’t allowed to wear it until I was a bit older, I remember sneaking my sister’s products to try on. I like to get creative and try new things. YouTube make-up editorials are my best friend. Make-up is definitely not a skill I have mastered so I relish every opportunity to sit in the chair with professionals and learn from them. I’ve taken away great advice from everyone I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.

How did you get your start?

I was the first woman in my state to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant wearing a hijab and burkini (a modest swimsuit) this past November. After garnering international media attention for practicing my Muslim faith at the pageant and staying true to who I am, some of the industry’s biggest names reached out to the pageant organizers to offer up some amazing opportunities in the fashion world. I was invited to NYC by iconic stylist Carine Roitfeld to shoot for her magazine, CR Fashion Book. After my first photo shoot ever, which happened to be with the legendary Mario Sorrenti, I landed the cover of CR’s Issue 10 in May. It was during that same trip that I met with IMG Models and signed a contract for global representation a few weeks later.

What are you working on right now? Can you describe any current projects or activities?

Right now, I am working to build a relationship with an organization that has had a huge impact on my life, UNICEF. As a refugee, I remember the important role that UNICEF staff and volunteers had when I was young and living in a camp in Kenya. I recently had the chance to travel to Mexico with UNICEF for their NextGen Summit and it was life-changing. My ultimate goal is to change the world, beyond the fashion industry. Becoming a Goodwill Ambassador would be a dream come true!

What is success to you?

Success is reading a social media message from a young girl who tells me that I am her inspiration. I have been given a voice and platform during the past nine months that I refuse to take for granted. If I can spread a message of hope to those who don’t see themselves or feel represented in any given industry and challenge them to be willing to be the first and give it a shot, I will have succeeded.

Do critics matter?

As a 19 year old, it can be hard to read harsh comments, mostly cyber bullying. I have learned to trust my support system and follow my heart as I know I am doing the right thing and hopefully paving the way for others.

Obviously you’ve seen success in your career but can you tell us about a time you failed?

Ha! If I could tell you the number of times I see a hold come up on my work calendar, only for it to be taken down a few days or weeks later. Just means I wasn’t the right person for the job.

Do you think about legacy?

Making an impression on society that runs so deep people can’t help but remember you – that’s what comes to mind when I think of legacy.

What advice do you have for someone looking to break into your industry?

Just be you!

Did you ever give up (or want to give up)? What were the circumstances?

I am a black, Somali-American Muslim. With modeling being an unknown to my culture and community, it was hard for many to accept at the beginning. On the flip side, having a black, Somali-American Muslim on the runway or magazine stands was an unknown for those outside of my community and culture too. On all sides, it was an unknown and people don’t know how to react to what they are not comfortable and familiar with. With this came some pressure, questioning and backlash. Rarely does anyone want to be the first. I think that with time and those very same people seeing that I’m not changing who I am to get ahead in the industry has turned many of those questioners into my biggest supporters and fans.

What trends in your field do you find most exciting / are you most optimistic about? What about your field is frustrating? What would you like to see change?

I find it exciting that many companies and designers are including such a diverse cast to their advertisements and shows. From plus size models to those over the age of 50 – it’s truly incredible to see the industry recognizing and celebrating beauty in all shapes, colors, sizes. I’m optimistic that inclusion and acceptance will continue to be the trend. I haven’t been in the game long enough to have many frustrations – I’m just learning about being a player in the fashion and modeling world day-by-day and some things are probably just the nature of the beast and not worth being frustrated over. Although, in a career that is extremely last minute and constantly changing, it would be nice to have details and jobs confirmed sooner. But again, just the nature of the beast and I’d rather the opportunities come last minute than not at all.

How do you plan to build on your success so far? Is there anything you fear will set you back?

I recently saw Christie Brinkley in an ad for GAP. As the fashion industry isn’t something I grew up following, I wasn’t familiar with who she was. My manager asked me to guess her age and I thought she was in her 30’s. I was floored to find out she was 63 — are you kidding me? What a timeless beauty! I guess my point is, I know that modeling won’t last forever…unless you are Christie Brinkley. So, to build on my success, I need to treat myself and my branding as a business. Right now, it is important for me to stay relevant in both high fashion and the growing world of modest fashion. I look forward to someday telling my story in a book or movie. Until then, I plan to appreciate every opportunity, show up smiling, work hard, and network! The only thing that can set me back, is me!

What was the first moment you knew you were going to be able to do this as a job – not necessarily your first big break or success, but the first time you thought, “This is it, this is my career”?

This past December, when I traveled to New York for the first time ever, I had the chance to visit Times Square. My manager told me that someday I would be up on one of the billboards we were looking at in amazement of their size and strong presence. I giggled off the idea. When I returned to Times Square, with her in July, I was overcome with emotion as I saw my face on one of the biggest billboards atop the American Eagle store. I never dreamed that a woman wearing a hijab could be a model and there I was… larger than life. That was a really emotional moment for me.

What’s been the biggest choice you’ve had to make in your career so far?

A good education isn’t something that my Somali family and many living in Africa have the opportunity to experience. For me, the decision to postpone my college education after completing my freshman year at St. Cloud State University was a big choice. I know I can always go back to school, but the chance to model won’t always be there.

What is your morning routine like?

Morning? Eeeeek! I am more of a night owl. That being said, when working, I usually have to wake up very early for call times and yes, I need a little coffee or tea to get me going! Once I am on set and meet everyone, I feel energized and ready to give it my all!

What are you most excited about for the future? (Can be about your career, your personal life, the world – anything.)

Giving back is what drives me. I want to leave a positive, lasting handprint on our world. I am most excited about partnering with UNICEF and am eager to continue building that relationship. I would love the opportunity to some day go back to Kakuma, the refugee camp I was raised at in Kenya. Or, to go back to Somalia to visit my relatives and see where I am from.

What are you most worried about for the future?

I tend to worry about other people. I want my brother to be successful as he is starting his senior year of high school, I want my mom to be healthy, I want my nieces and nephews to go for their goals no matter what, I want my sisters to be happy…

Are you good at giving advice? What is the best advice you’ve ever given?

I think it’s always important to look at all sides of a story. I think we live in a society where people are quick to play the victim. While in many cases, their reasoning may be just, I always encourage everyone to look at the big picture. I think that’s the best advice I can give. I remember a time that I was parked in a no parking zone and a couple looked at me and shook their heads as they walked by in disagreement. Passengers in my car said something to the effect of it being because I was wearing a hijab or because I’m black. I said, “No, it’s because I’m parked illegally!”

Are you good at receiving advice? What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

I am a giver by nature. I want to help people who have helped me and I feel an obligation to support family members that I have never even met. While I recognize this quality is admirable, it can also be my biggest hindrance in building a successful career. The best advice I’ve received is to protect myself and work hard now to build my business so that down the road I really can help people I care for. Right now, I’m just starting a career and not in a position to be help everyone I would like to. I know with due time and hard work, I can become successful enough to provide a nice life for my family.

What makes a person beautiful? What makes you beautiful?

When people are unapologetically the best authentic version of themselves, now that’s beautiful!

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of trying to live my life with no regrets. I’ve taken a chance to explore avenues many other young Muslim women haven’t for one reason or another — joining choir at school, being elected a member of the student government, winning the title of Homecoming Queen, participating in a beauty pageant, becoming a professional model. It’s my hope that I am sending a message to young women everywhere that they can do it…don’t hold back! I want these young women to know that their fellow women support them and are lifting them up — I am your biggest cheerleader!

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor makes first court appearance; leaves jail after posting $400,000 bond



STAR TRIBUNE — The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in the July shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond made his first court appearance Wednesday, where his bail was set at $400,000.

During the hearing, Mohamed Noor said his first public words since the incident in south Minneapolis, spelling his name and confirming his address to Judge Kathryn Quaintance. Noor, slight and soft-spoken, said nothing else during the 15-minute hearing at the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis.

Quaintance set his bail at $400,000 on the condition that he turn over his passport, surrender his firearms and ammunition and refrain from contacting his former partner Matthew Harrity, the lone witness in the racially charged case that drew international outrage and led to the ouster of former police Chief Janeé Harteau. Bail without conditions was set at $500,000. Noor paid the $400,000 conditional bond and left the Hennepin County jail late Wednesday in the company of his attorney.
Police union officials said that Noor was fired from the department on Tuesday.

Throughout the hearing Wednesday, Noor stood behind a glass partition in an orange jail jumpsuit, wearing a solemn expression. He barely turned to face the packed courtroom gallery, never making eye contact with a group of relatives and friends seated in the front row. Several dozen other supporters huddled in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Noor, 32, turned himself in on Tuesday morning, a day after authorities issued a sealed warrant for his arrest. He is charged with firing his gun from inside his police SUV and hitting Damond, who had called 911 to report a suspected assault in the alley behind her Fulton neighborhood home. Her death provoked protests and became a symbol, in Minneapolis and her native Australia, of how police shootings affect all communities. It also led to Harteau’s firing by then-Mayor Betsy Hodges.

Noor maintained his silence, choosing not to speak to state investigators or the grand jury investigating Damond’s death. The grand jury concluded its probe Monday, the day before Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced his charging decision.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy argued that Noor’s bail should be substantial, saying that he posed a flight risk, and that her office had developed “credible evidence” last fall that Noor had left the country.

The report proved false, but she said prosecutors grew more worried after hearing from a witness who claimed that he had “offered to hide [Noor] out.”

“These are the witness’ words, not mine,” she said.

Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said in court that the charges against his client were baseless, while calling the initial $500,000 bail “frankly, outrageous.”

He pointed out that Noor had submitted his DNA to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in June for testing, and later voluntarily went to City Hall to meet with an investigator after rumors surfaced that he had left the country.

Plunkett said that Noor posed no risk of fleeing, adding that the former officer came to Minnesota at the age of 5, escaping a civil war in his native Somalia, and had never known another home.

“He has no connection to any other place,” said Plunkett, after waiving a reading of the charges. “Your Honor, Mr. Noor is an American.”

After hearing from both sides, Quaintance offered the conditional bail and set Noor’s next court date for May 8.

“Officer Noor, like any other person charged with a crime in America, is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Quaintance said. “If he has a trial, it will be in a court of law, not in the media or in the streets.”

Defense attorney Ryan Pacyga said that he was surprised by the prosecution’s high bail request, particularly considering that Noor voluntarily turned himself in and has ties to the community.

He also scoffed at the prosecution’s depiction of Noor as a danger to the public, pointing out that his alleged crime was committed in the course of his duties as a police officer — a profession that is authorized to use deadly force if lives are in imminent danger. “The point is that we’re not talking about some madman, even under the government’s version of this case, that poses some particular danger to the community out there,” Pacyga said.

Jeronimo Yanez, the only other Minnesota officer in recent history charged in an on-duty shooting, was released on his own recognizance. A jury last summer cleared Yanez of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

About a month after that verdict, Damond was killed in Minneapolis.

Messages left for Noor’s father went unreturned on Wednesday.

The Somali-American Police Association broke its monthslong silence on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it was “saddened” by what it called politically and possibly racially motivated charges.

We believe Freeman is more interested in furthering his political agenda than he is in the facts surrounding this case,” the statement read. “The charges brought against Officer Noor are not intended to serve justice; rather, they are meant to make an ‘example’ of him.”

An MPD spokeswoman on Wednesday confirmed that an internal probe into the incident was ongoing, but otherwise declined to comment.

Lt. Bob Kroll said claims that Noor plotted to leave the country were news to him.

“He was on administrative leave so he had daily check-ins with [Internal Affairs], I believe,” said Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents the department’s roughly 880 sworn police officers.

He said they will likely file a grievance on Noor’s behalf to challenge the firing, which is standard practice in disciplinary cases. He said that he wasn’t entirely surprised by the department’s decision to fire Noor, who had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. “I understand when you’ve got a person facing those charges, there’s a lot of pressure for the administration to get that person off the table, given the public outcry,” he said.

The union has come under fire from critics from both within the department and outside its ranks for not publicly defending Noor.

Noor, who joined the department three years ago, is named in a brutality lawsuit wending its way through federal court. Earlier this month, a judge in that case ruled that an attorney for the woman suing Noor along with another Minneapolis cop and the department was not allowed to ask questions about the Damond shooting.

Staff writers Elizabeth Sawyer and Faiza Mahamud contributed to this report.

Continue Reading


Resettlement of Somalis in Minnesota plummets in wake of Trump policies



MINNPOST — Micaela Schuneman and Ben Walen both lead refugee resettlement efforts at separate nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities. And both have recently noticed a similar trend in their line of work: a substantial decline in the number of Somali refugee admissions.
“Last year, for my office, we had resettled 99 Somali refugees during [the first half of] our fiscal year, which started on October 1st,” said Schuneman, who’s director of refugee services at the International Institute of Minnesota. “This year, we’ve resettled 13.”

Walen, the director of refugee services at the Minnesota Council of Churches, has seen a similar pattern. In the last several years, Somalis accounted for 40 to 50 percent of the organization’s overall refugee resettlement caseload. This year, however, “we’re down to below 20 percent,” he said.

That’s a big shift from the number of Somali refugees the state has resettled in previous years. From 2014-2017 nearly 4,000 refugees from Somalia were resettled in Minnesota, which represented the single largest group of new arrivals brought here each year.

That’s not a big surprise. The administration of President Donald Trump has reduced overall refugee arrivals since it came into office in 2017. Yet the primary cause is the administration’s increased scrutiny of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries, said Schuneman and Walen.

Last year, President Trump signed an executive order seeking to temporarily suspend all refugee admissions for 120 days. Despite multiple legal challenges, the moratorium went into effect in June. When the suspension expired in October, the resettlement programs reopened their services to new arrivals — except for those from Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The U.S. government designated those nations as “high-risk,” imposing another 90-day ban to implement tighter security measures. That 90-day suspension ended in January, “but we have not seen Somali arrivals really pick up since,” said Schuneman.

Reports from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) confirm those observations. Although March marks halfway through the federal government’s fiscal year, only 57 refugees from Somalia have so far been resettled statewide. During the same period last year, that number exceeded 650.

That makes Karen refugees from Burma the largest group so far admitted in Minnesota. Statewide, a little over 240 refugees have been resettled during the current federal fiscal year. They include 60 people from Burma, 30 from Congo and 38 from Ethiopia. “People coming out of Burma are about 45 percent of our arrival so far this year,” Walen said. “Our next larger group is people from Somalia, 16 percent total.”

In addition to the seven-month ban on most Somali immigration, stricter security measures imposed on Somali immigrants — which the government says would prevent potential terrorists from coming to America — was still another factor in the reduction.

“Much of who will be resettled to the United States — and who we welcome to Minnesota through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program — is dependent on overseas screening and vetting process carried out by the U.S. Department of State in coordination with many other federal agencies,” DHS told MinnPost in an email. “These processes lead to final approval and ultimately travel to the United States. The current administration has been reviewing and updating existing processes, which has led to a dramatic slowing of arrivals to the United States.”

Continue Reading


Mpls. officer charged with murder in Justine Damond case



KARE 11 — MINNEAPOLIS – Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor turned himself in to authorities Tuesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with the death of Justine Damond.

Noor’s attorney Thomas Plunkett confirms the officer is currently in custody, and the Hennepin County Jail roster lists the charges against Noor as third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

According to the warrant that spells out the charges against Noor:

“There’s no evidence that, in that short timeframe, Officer Noor encountered, appreciated, investigated or confirmed a threat that justified the decision to use deadly force. Instead, Officer Noor recklessly and intentionally fired his handgun from the passenger seat. A location at which he would have been less able than Officer (Matthew) Harrity to see and hear events on the other side of the squad car.”
The warrant goes on to say that Harrity did pull out his gun, but held it to his side and didn’t fire. Statements from Harrity say both he, and Officer Noor, felt a threat.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has scheduled a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the Grand Jury Room of the courthouse to discuss his charging decision. KARE 11 will have multiple crews there and plans to carry the proceedings live. A community action group called “Justice for Justine” has announced it will hold a rally tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of 50th and Washburn Avenue South.

Damond’s family said in a written statement that they’re pleased that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman decided to bring charges. They say they hope a strong case will be presented and Noor will be convicted.
Ads By Google

Their statement says justice “demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect.”
“Justine’s family in Australia and the US applaud today’s decision to criminally charge Officer Noor with Justine’s murder as one step toward justice for this iniquitous act,” reads the full family statement. “While we waited over eight months to come to this point, we are pleased with the way a grand jury and County Attorney Mike Freeman appear to have been diligent and thorough in investigating and ultimately determining that these charges are justified. We remain hopeful that a strong case will be presented by the prosecutor, backed by verified and detailed forensic evidence, and that this will lead to a conviction. No charges can bring our Justine back. However, justice demands accountability for those responsible for recklessly killing the fellow citizens they are sworn to protect, and today’s actions reflect that.”

Noor fatally shot Damond on July 15, 2017 while responding to her call of a possible sexual assault in progress.

According to the warrant, Officer Harrity told investigators that he heard a noise that startled him and Officer Noor. Harrity said he perceived that his life was in danger and unholstered his gun, holding it to his rib cage, pointing it downward. He told investigators Damond approached their squad car from the rear driver’s side then saw Officer Noor with his right arm extended. Harrity looked out the window and saw a woman, later identified as Damond, put her hands on a gunshot wound on the left side of her abdomen and say, “I’m dying” or “I’m dead,” the warrant states.

She was pronounced dead on the scene.

The death of the popular neighborhood organizer and activist triggered anger and action across the community, eventually leading to the resignation of Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau. On Tuesday, Harteau posted a statement on Twitter regarding the charges against Noor.

“Justine Damond’s family deserves answers and they deserve justice. As I originally stated Justine didn’t have to die,” Harteau tweeted. “This tragedy was the result of the actions of one officer, of which we still don’t know why. I ask people to continue to support the officers that provide selfless and honorable service every day to the citizens of Minneapolis.”

While Officer Harrity cooperated with BCA investigators in the wake of Damond’s death, Noor refused to share his side of the story, and was not compelled to by law.

In September, the BCA turned its investigation over to Freeman’s office for consideration of criminal charges against Noor. The county attorney promised a decision by the end of 2017 but it did not come. In December, a cell phone video was released of Freeman at a holiday party, with activists asking him why Noor had not been charged yet. Freeman said that he didn’t have enough evidence to charge Noor, blaming investigators who “haven’t done their job.” The interaction was recorded without Freeman’s knowledge and was posted extensively on social media.

In late January, Damond family attorney Bob Bennett told KARE 11 that a grand jury had been called to hear testimony in the case, a development the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office would not confirm, citing the secrecy of the proceedings.

That testimony began in February, with more than 30 Minneapolis police officers subpoenaed to testify, including Officer Mohamed Noor’s partner, Officer Harrity.

Officer Noor was hired by the Minneapolis Police Department on March 23, 2015 and had no prior law enforcement experience. He completed training at the Minneapolis PD Academy and was trained in numerous scenarios, intended to teach officers how to identify a threat, if any, before shooting.

Continue Reading