Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue is making history by featuring Halima Aden as the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and a burkini.
Halima, who was born in Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya and lived there for the first seven years of her life, returned to her birth country for an SI photoshoot on the white sands of Watamu Beach.
“I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” the 21-year-old told the magazine.
“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.”
In an interview with Good Morning America, the Somali-American model, who first made headlines as the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant in 2016, said she was overcome by emotion several times during the photoshoot.
“Sports Illustrated is proving that a girl that’s wearing a bikini can 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 celebrating the diversity of women,” she added.
Sports Illustrated editor MJ Day sang Halima’s praises for being the first woman to exemplify the magazine’s mission to showcase women being the “pilot” of their own beauty.
“We believe beauty knows no boundaries,” MJ said in a statement.
“I admire Halima, 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. 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,” Day added. “Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY.”
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