AceShowbiz - Halima Aden makes history as the first model to wear a hijab and burkini in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. The Kenya-born model returned to her birth country to do the photo shoot on Watamu Beach with photographer Yu Tsai.
"I keep thinking (back) to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp," the 21-year-old tells 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."
Calling it a "dream come true," the Somali-American beauty explains how much being featured on the magazine means to her. "Growing up in the states, I never felt represented, because I could never flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab," she says.
Breaking society's standard of beauty, she tells every women out there, "[W]hether you are wearing one-piece, a two-piece, or a burkini, you are the pilot of your own beauty." Sharing a picture from the photo shoot for SI Swimsuit issue, she wrote an inspiring message in the caption, "Don't change yourself .. Change the GAME!! Ladies anything is possible!!!"
Halima, indeed, has never been afraid to break the boundaries. Living in a refugee camp in Kenya until the age of seven, she moved to Minnesota where she became her town's first homecoming queen. In 2016, she became the first contestant in Miss Minnesota USA to wear a hijab and burkini, but she only reached the pageant's semi-finals.
"There are so many Muslim women that feel like they don't fit society's standard of beauty," she told CNN of hear goal at the time. "I just wanted to tell them it's OK to be different, being different is beautiful, too."
Halima says pageantry is outside of her culture, but she tried it out anyway. Since then, her motto has become "don't ever be afraid to be the first." In 2017, she became the first hijab-wearing model on the cover of Vogue Arabia, Allure and British Vogue.
"I empower women by staying true to myself and also encouraging them to go out and not be scared to be the first," she told CNN on International Women's Day in March. "If you don't see yourself represented in any given field, take it upon yourself to be the one."