Halima Aden Makes History as First Model to Wear a Hijab and Burkini for Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue

The 21-year-old model is making a historical splash in the magazine for 2019.

By Samantha Schnurr Apr 29, 2019 4:26 PMTags
Halima Aden, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2019Yu Tsai

Halima Aden is making a serious splash in the pages of this year's issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit

The 21-year-old former Miss Minnesota USA semi-finalist is making her mark on the highly anticipated annual issue this year as she will be the first model to wear a hijab and burkini for the shoot, Sports Illustrated revealed on Monday. 

In images taken by American photographer Yu Tsai, Aden stuns in the water on Watamu Beach and against a backdrop of cliffs as she dons two custom-made burkinis, a black one by No Ka'Oi and a multicolored one by Cynthia Rowley. 

In addition to her significant ensembles, Aden also posed in a special place—Kenya—where she was born into a refugee camp and lived until she was 7 years old. "I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp," she told Sports Illustrated. "So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya—I don't think that's a story that anybody could make up."

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue 50th Anniversary Party

The model's shoot seems to be one of many to come that will reflect the issue's theme of "shattering perceptions" as they try to redefine traditional standards of beauty and highlight underrepresented women. According to the magazine, they plan to use the theme to showcase a "diverse sisterhood of women."

"Having Halima as a part of SI Swimsuit is yet another example of the range and scope of the type of beauty that exists," SI Swimsuit Editor MJ Day said in a statement. "Her participation and inclusion further highlights the brands commitment and belief in supporting women to own who they are and what makes them unique and ultimately reaffirms what our messaging has been, that YOU are worthy." 

Yu Tsai

As for the model, Aden hopes her photos will effect change beyond the pages of the magazine. 

"SI Swimsuit has been at the forefront of changing the narrative and conversation on social issues and preconceived notions. I'm hoping this specific feature will open doors up for my Somali community, Muslim community, refugee community and any other community that can relate to being different," Aden said in a statement. "This feature is proving that a fully covered hijab wearing model can confidently stand alongside a beautiful woman in a revealing bikini and together they can celebrate one another, cheer each other on, and champion each other's successes."

The star continued, "Young Muslim women need to know that there is a modest swimsuit option available to them so they can join the swim team, participate in swim class at school, and go with their friends to the beach. Muslim girls should feel confident taking that step and doing so comfortably while wearing a burkini."

SI Swimsuit hits newsstands on May 8. 

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