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Who is Halima Aden, the first model to wear a hijab on the cover of Teen Vogue?

Tuesday July 3, 2018
By Luchina Fisher 

Halima Aden is smashing barriers as the first model to wear a hijab while gracing the covers of magazines, walking the runaways of New York and Milan and competing in a beauty pageant.

The 20-year-old Somali-American model has appeared on the covers of Vogue Arabia and British Vogue and Allure's July 2017 issue. She is currently the cover model for Teen Vogue's July 2018 digital issue, where she discusses her Muslim and American identities, her childhood growing up as a refugee, and giving back as a UNICEF Ambassador.

"Growing up, I never saw magazine articles painting Muslim women in a positive light," said Aden, who is the first model in a hijab to appear on the cover of Teen Vogue. "In fact, if I saw an article about someone who looked like me, it would be the complete opposite."

Aden's family fled their village in 1992 during Somalia's civil war and relocated to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. When she was seven years old, Aden, her mother and younger brother immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Aden was driven to make a better life for herself, competing in the Miss Minnesota pageant and working two jobs by age 16.

"When I was in high school, I was like, ‘I wanna work!’ I don’t want to rely on anyone but myself. That to me was independence," she told Teen Vogue. "I think it goes back to feeling hopeless as a kid for my mom. She literally used to walk all over the camp selling oonsi (Somali incense), not even for money but to trade for food and goods."

Now, Aden is the first hijabi model to sign with international modeling agency IMG. And she was recently named a UNICEF ambassador, an honor that's not lost on Aden.

"They always reminded me as a kid that I was not forgotten about," she said of the United Nations children's fund. "I didn’t know what life outside of a camp looked like. I couldn’t even imagine it. UNICEF was [my world]. Before I could sign my own name, when I was literally doing ‘x’ for my name, I could spell UNICEF."

Recognizing how fortunate she is to have made it out of the camp and become a U.S. citizen, Aden said, "This country has given me so much in terms of life lessons and hardship and amazing opportunities. You take the good with the bad. It’s just given me so much."


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