Halima Aden just made history. She is totally changed the pageant community this past weekend: The 19-year-old is the first contestant in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant to wear a hijab throughout the competition and a burkini during the swimsuit round. And she totally slayed.
The Somali-American teenager, who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and moved to America when she was just 6 years old, made it to the pageant’s semifinals this past Sunday–which is an awesome feat for any teen, but it’s especially monumental as she is proving that beauty comes in many different forms. It’s important for Aden that her participation be seen as such, as she explained to KARE-11:
“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. Be who you are. It’s easy to feel like you have to blend in, but it takes courage to live your life with conviction and embrace the person that you are.”
— Ellery McCardle (@ElleryTV) November 28, 2016
— Leila Navidi (@LeilaNavidi) November 27, 2016
Aden also hopes her participation in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant will help change America’s perception of Muslim women, especially now that Islamophobia is more prevalent than ever. Aden, who currently lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota, was also recently on an episode of “This American Life.” The episode, not shockingly, focused on the city’s xenophobia.
In an interview with ABC, Aden also explained how a radical minority doesn’t make up the whole (which may be common sense to some, but not to everyone):
“The people that are doing bad things, they don’t represent an entire group. I feel like I’m here to bust those misconceptions and stereotypes of Muslim women.”
I’m so glad women like Aden are brave enough to speak about their beliefs and own their identities in such a difficult and contentious time. Her outspokenness will not only pave the road for women like her, but be the light that young girls need right now. Her smile, as you can see below, is contagious.