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Minnesota’s pioneering Muslim model featured in new Nike ad campaign

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Minnesota fashion model Halima Aden has done it again.

The 19-year-old who has challenged attitudes about the wearing of hijabs has broken yet another barrier — this time appearing in a new Nike ad campaign celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Air Max sneaker.

She joins an elite group of Nike spokespeople that includes tennis champion Serena Williams and supermodel Bella Hadid.

Aden was photographed in her hometown of St. Cloud earlier this month at a batting cage and go-kart racing course. The photos first surfaced last week on Aden’s Instagram account. She posted two photos of herself dressed from head to toe in Nike apparel. In both photos, she is wearing a gray skirt with a slit and black Nike leggings underneath, a white Nike sweatshirt, Air Max 97 sneakers and a black sports hijab.

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A post shared by Halima Aden (@kinglimaa) on

Minnesota fashion model Halima Aden has done it again.

The 19-year-old who has challenged attitudes about the wearing of hijabs has broken yet another barrier — this time appearing in a new Nike ad campaign celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Air Max sneaker.

She joins an elite group of Nike spokespeople that includes tennis champion Serena Williams and supermodel Bella Hadid.

Aden was photographed in her hometown of St. Cloud earlier this month at a batting cage and go-kart racing course. The photos first surfaced last week on Aden’s Instagram account. She posted two photos of herself dressed from head to toe in Nike apparel. In both photos, she is wearing a gray skirt with a slit and black Nike leggings underneath, a white Nike sweatshirt, Air Max 97 sneakers and a black sports hijab.

Along with the new photos, Aden posted this message on Instagram: “There’s always room for improvement. My life philosophy is: If I did good yesterday, I could do better today. Even with these shoes, Nike is not thinking for the customers today, they’re keeping in mind the customers 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 60 years from now. What is that brand going to be remembered for? I’m excited to share with you these images created for @NikeSportswear’s #ad #AirMax97 Ultra. #Movement97”.

The campaign comes as Nike prepares to launch the Pro Hijab, a high-performance athletic hijab, early next year, according to Vogue magazine.

Aden first made history last fall as the first Miss Minnesota USA pageant contestant to compete wearing a head scarf and burkini. Her entry in the pageant led to her discovery by the larger fashion world. (Read our full profile on Aden here.)

She signed with IMG Models and walked the runway for Yeezy and Max Mara lines in New York and Italy. In addition, she has appeared in the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour magazines. Recently, she landed on the cover of Allure magazine.

The plucky Somali-American teenager, who kept her housekeeping job at St. Cloud Hospital after becoming a cover girl, has had an eventful month — she just had her braces removed last week.

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Fashion

Halima Aden Explains Why Somalia Needs Your Support

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TEEN VOGUE — The country of Somalia means a lot to me. It’s the home I never got to see, but feel so connected to. My family is from Somalia and my mother fled due to the civil war, which has been ongoing for decades. Although I was born in Kenya, I will always be a Somali first.

My mother was the one who told me about the bombing that occurred in Mogadishu on October 14. A few weeks prior, she had just gotten back from Kismayo, a different city in Somalia. When we talked about her trip, she had so much hope and wanted to go back as soon as possible. She was absolutely devastated. My heart broke for the victims and their families.

Thankfully, my family is safe and were not in Modgishu. We checked in with family and friends and everyone is safe — but far from alright. We are still mourning for the hundreds of innocent lives lost. Those killed were people, not numbers. This was a horrible tragedy that affected Somalis around the world. It is the deadliest bombing in the country’s history. A lot of innocent lives were lost.
There was a lack of media coverage about the bombing, which was disheartening, but I’m grateful for all the people who have shown their support for Somalia.

France dimmed the lights on the Eiffel Tower to remember the victims, Turkey has shown support, as has Canada.


Tragedy is tragedy, no matter where it happens in the world. I think it’s important that we pray for all the victims. Show compassion to your Somali coworkers and neighbors.

You don’t know if that person just lost a parent, a friend, or their entire family. Teens have the power of reaching people an ocean away by simply using their social media to raise awareness. Your thoughts and prayers will let them know that they are not forgotten about.

I want the world to know that Somali people are resilient and will overcome this tragedy. I have always had hope for my country and I know this evil will not be how our chapter ends. Above all, I want people to know that Muslims are allies against terrorism — not the enemy.

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Diaspora

World’s only hijab-wearing supermodel defends garment

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In November 2016, Denise Wallace, Executive Co-Director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant got a phone call from 19-year-old Halima Aden, a freshman of St. Cloud State University asking if she could compete – while wearing her hijab.

It was the first time Ms Wallace spoke with the teen, pulling up her information on her computer.

“Her photo popped up. And I remember distinctly going, “Wow, she is beautiful. I mean I just remember that reaction that I had,” Ms Wallace recalled.
Now the world’s only hijab wearing super model, the Somali-American teen said that wearing the headscarf is simply a part of who she is.

“I wear the hijab every day,” Ms Aden told Reuters.

“It was a no-brainer.”

After the competition Ms Aden made headlines as the first hijab and burkini-sporting contestant in the history of the pageant, the bold move catapulting her career to new heights involving many “firsts”.

Freshly signed by IMG in February, she made her modelling debut on the catwalk of Kanye West’s Yeezy show in New York. Ms Aden as the only hijab-wearing model signed by a major modelling agency to date.

Following her success in New York, she walked on the international runways of Italian fashion houses Max Mara and Alberta Ferretti, alongside the likes of Gigi Hadid and Liu Wen.

Coinciding with Ms Aden’s success, the hijab – one of the most visible signs of Islamic culture – is going mainstream as well, with advertisers, media giants and fashion firms promoting images of the traditional headscarf in ever more ways.
Nike announced it is using its prowess in the sports and leisure market to launch a breathable mesh hijab in spring 2018, becoming the first major sports apparel maker to offer a traditional Islamic head scarf designed for competition.

American retailer American Eagle Outfitters has also created a denim hijab with Ms Aden as its main model. The youthful headscarf sold out in less than a week after it was made available online.

Beauty bible Allure magazine’s editor-in-chief Michelle Lee was also in the mix, putting Ms Aden on the front cover of the magazine’s July issue, describing her as a “normal American teenage girl”.

“She is someone who is so amazingly representative of who we are as America, as a melting pot it totally made sense for us,” Ms Lee said.
Ms Aden was born in Kakuma, a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya, and made it to the United States at the age of seven where she initially settled in St. Louis, Missouri.

She fondly recalls her time at the refugee camp, where children from different religions celebrated each other’s holidays.

“Different people different refugees from all over Africa came together in Kakuma. Yet we still found a common ground,” she said.

“And then coming here it was a little different because that wasn’t always the case.”

In America she became an A-student and homecoming queen at her high school, but always noticed that there were no Muslim-Americans in the media that she could look up to.

Her ultimate goal is to become a role model for Muslim-American youth.

For any hijab-denouncers, Ms Aden always stresses that she started wearing hers in the hopes to resemble her mom.

“Anything in life, if it’s not your choice, it’s oppressive. So I’m not going to argue against that. But for the majority it’s a choice. Like for me it was a choice,” she said.

By her side is Ms Wallace, who now travels the world as her manager, making sure that Ms Aden’s customs are respected.

Most of the time people are understanding, but even if they are not, Ms Aden said that she doesn’t pay too much attention.

“I am doing me and I have no reason to think that other people are against me. So I just I guess I’m oblivious,” she said.

For now Ms Aden is content being a champion for diversity in the modelling industry, but in time she hopes to return to Kakuma to work with refugee children to show them they all have the potential to become international stars.

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Diaspora

I’m Tired Of Hearing This Muslim Beauty Stereotype

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MISKI MUSE

For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it’s a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we’ll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our third subject, Miski Muse, is a model and student living in New York City.

You’d be surprised by the amount of people who assume that you’re bald or don’t care about your appearance when you wear a scarf. There are so many people who are like, ‘Why do you even style or dye your hair? Nobody’s going to see it.’ That shows that you’re doing things for other people; I’m doing them for myself. I still want to feel good — who cares if no one sees it? I see it and that’s very important to me.

Because I cover my hair, wearing makeup allows more personality to show through. You take something, and you put it back; it’s simple math. I do think a lot of people equate modesty with being boring, though. After I was featured in Vogue, someone tweeted at me and said, ‘Nice to see a hijabi woman in Vogue, but it’s sad that you have to have all those pounds of makeup.” When did modesty mean not taking care of myself? There’s nothing in the Quran, which is our holy book, that says not to. It actually says that you should.

I think we’re all beautiful and there’s no reason for anyone to be looked down upon for wearing anything — whether that’s heavy makeup or not.

Family Values

Growing up, I had no introduction to makeup. My mother put on eyeliner, and that’s it. I started experimenting with colors and makeup in the seventh grade, and my mom did not get why I would wake up every morning and do that. She was like, ‘You are beautiful just the way you are.’ That’s always what my family would reiterate, so in the back of my mind, I know that I don’t need makeup, but I like it.

My family is not judge-y about me wearing makeup — they just don’t understand it. It could be a lack of communication, or the fact that they had a different kind of upbringing in Somalia. I think what they learned was that the less makeup you wear, the more beautiful you are. I didn’t grow up there, so I don’t even have that concept in my mind. I’m trying to balance both worlds, and, at the same time, be myself.

Escape Artist

For me, makeup is a form of expression and also how I combat my depression and anxiety. Some days, if I’m feeling down, putting on a little bit of concealer gives me that push that I need. Whenever I do a deep lip, I’m like, ‘What business are we handling today?’ As I’m applying, I’ll say, ‘You can do this and it’s going to be okay.’ Knowing that I put five minutes of my time towards myself instead of lying down or going through Facebook makes me feel good.

It’s not about being done up, because I don’t think that’s a prerequisite to feeling beautiful. But I like knowing that I’ve put effort into myself, whether that’s braiding my hair or whatever. It’s a form of self-care for me.

Feature Presentation

Growing up, I was hugely self-conscious about my lips and my eyes, because kids were mean. They would tell me I had owl eyes — that was my nickname throughout elementary school.

I used to get teased a lot for having darker eyelids, too. People would be like, ‘Why are your eyelids a different color?’ I wasn’t comfortable accentuating that, so I didn’t want to put on eyeshadow or draw attention to myself at all.

It’s funny, because those are the features that I love now. I would have done anything to have smaller lips or smaller eyes back in the day, but now I wouldn’t trade them for the world. It’s interesting the way that comes about. I think that it shows growth. Now, eyeliner makes me feel like I can conquer anything. It’s crazy how a little line can have that effect.

Mirror Image

You hear about how representation matters, you hear it, and you think, whatever. But people don’t understand how huge representation actually is.

When I was younger, I used to rip out every image of a Black woman who was featured in a magazine, which was no more than 10 pages per issue. I would pin them up and every month, they’d be on rotation.

To go from seeing someone who looked slightly like me in a magazine, to seeing someone like Halima Aden, who literally looks like me, on a cover — that’s a feeling I don’t know how to explain. I bought the magazine and was crying, and the cashier at the register was also wearing a hijab. She looked at me and we had a moment. It’s no longer just a dream now — it’s tangible.

Model Behavior

It’s still weird to call myself a model. I go to events and people are like, ‘What do you do?’ and I don’t know what to say. I’m getting better at it, but I feel like a fraud. I know that’s really dumb. I’ve done work and people tell me that I’m a model and in my head, I am a model. But then I’m like, Wait… but am I?

It’s not so much about the connotation; I really don’t care what people think. But I’m not the average model; I’m not six foot and size two. Even though I’m comfortable in myself, I’m still not seeing enough people who look like me to be like, I can be a model, too. And that’s some growing that I have to do internally.

In the end, if you wake up and you decide that this is what you want to do, then that’s what you’re going to do and no one can take that away from you. That’s your power and I’ve come way too far to put it in someone else’s hands.

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