For the first time, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has featured a model in full burkini and hijab.
Halima Aden, a Somali immigrant who came to the U.S. when she was seven and who was born in in the African nation of Kenya, was photographed at her birth nation’s Watamu Beach by photographer Yu Tsai.
“I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” Halima said. “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 is proving that a girl that’s wearing a bikini could be right alongside a girl that’s wearing a burkini. And as women we can come alongside each other and be each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” the model told ABC News.
Halima made news when she became the first contestant to wear a hijab on the Miss Minnesota pageant. She became a semi-finalist and earned a contract with the IMG Modeling agency.
Since joining the agency, Halima has appeared on the cover of Vogue, has been featured on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, and was included as a UNICEF ambassador.
SI Swimsuit editor MJ Day insisted that beauty “knows no boundaries” and that Muslim modesty can also be beautiful.
“I admire Halima,” Day said, “and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador. She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. When we met, I was instantaneously taken by her intelligence, enthusiasm, and authenticity.
“We both believe the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective,” Day concluded. “We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel your [sic] most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY.”
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