The hijab-wearing Yeezy model is blazing a path for young Muslim women everywhere
Somali-American model Halima Aden first made headlines in November 2016 when she chose to wear a hijab and burkini for the swimsuit portion of the 2016 Miss Minnesota pageant. Within the space of a few months, she had signed with super-agency IMG and made her runway debut – in a giant furry coat, no less – at Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 show during New York Fashion Week.
As the first hijab-wearing model on IMG’s books, Aden – who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and moved to America when she was six – represents an important, emblematic moment for young Muslim women in fashion. Writing on her Instagram hours before making history at the Yeezy show, she declared: “I signed with the top modelling agency in the WORLD and still wore my hijab as my crown. Don’t ever change yourself... Change the game.”
Changing the game is exactly what Aden is doing. Alongside her work with West, she secured her first shoot with photographer Mario Sorrenti as the cover star for the 10th edition of Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book, for which she was interviewed by the iconic model – and fellow Somali – Iman.
In today’s powder-keg political climate, Aden’s rise provides an alternative narrative to the ‘us and them’ dialogue of the post-Trump world, as well as the impenetrable hegemony of fashion. With cool defiance, her success is a subtle two-fingers to racist, xenophobic rhetoric, all while discarding narrow-minded preconceptions of how models should look – and who they should and shouldn’t be.