Breaking boundaries at a beauty pageant
Halima Aden, 19, may not have won the Miss Minnesota USA pageant this weekend, but she’ll be remembered for years to come because the Somali-American teenager was the first woman to ever compete wearing a hijab and a burkini during the swimsuit portion of the competition.
Having immigrated to St. Cloud, Minnesota from Kenya at the age of 7, Halima wanted to use the pageant to inspire other Muslim girls to be confident about their identity and who they are, especially as Minnesota is home to the largest number of Somali immigrants in America.
‘For a really long time I thought being different was a negative thing but as I grew older, I started to realise we were all born to stand out, nobody is born to blend in. How boring would this world be if everyone was the same?’ Hamila told CBS Minnesota.
Shortlisted as one of the top 15 contestants in the two-day pageant, this ambitious teenager hopes to one day be a U.N. ambassador. ‘You don’t let being the first to do it stop you or get in the way. When I see that there hasn’t already been somebody, I take that as a challenge for me to give it a try,’ she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
‘A lot of people will look at you and will fail to see your beauty because you’re covered up and they’re not used to it, so growing up I just had to work on my people skills and give people a chance to really know me besides the clothing,’ she told TV station KARE.
Halima Aden’s mother did not approve of her entering the competition but Halima decided to anyway, and commented saying: ‘This is a big win for us, you know. I’m the first to do this and I’m hoping to see more Muslim women wearing burkinis and being celebrated. I’m just challenging you to be outgoing and just do your best in everything that you do. The hijab is a symbol that we wear on our heads, but I want people to know that it is my choice. I’m doing it because I want to. I wanted people to see that you could still be really cute and modest at the same time. We do come from two different generations. I feel like we’re a little bit more Americanised than our parents are. [My mother] doesn’t understand it because it’s not something that exists back home.’