Beauty industry

How could Halima Aden abandon millions of models for Islam?

Move away from the track

Halima Aden, the hijabi model who made haute couture history. A young Somali woman who has been a symbol of crossing religious and cultural barriers in the modeling industry chose to quit her remarkable, but short-lived and still-budding modeling career earlier this week.

News that dealt a blow to the global fashion industry which saw its presence as a step towards promoting diversity and inclusion in the often Eurocentric and non-inclusive fashion houses of the West.

Humble beginnings set the tone

The East African beauty was born on September 19, 1997 in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where her family was staying after their escape from the civil war in Somalia.

The Aden family then moved to the United States six years later to settle in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where the Somali beauty would eventually have her first cultural mark in history by being the first woman to wear a hijab at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. .

Although Aden ranked as a semi-finalist, the historic moment when she was the first female contestant to wear a burkini and hijab captured the attention of national media.

From then on, the doll-faced beauty queen with her native East African features signed a three-year (renewable) contract with IMG Models.

A fashion icon in hijab

As is often the case with the most iconic international models who have achieved supermodel status – like living fashion icon and ubermodel Iman – also from Somalia, and her protégé the legendary and also iconic runway queen. , Naomi Campbell, Halima Aden was on track to take control of the fashion industry as she continued to push boundaries, break down barriers and make history.

Aden has posed for so many top international haute couture designers and modeled for various fashion week events – Milan and London Modest in 2016, New York in 2017 and showcased her own collection of Halima turbans and shawls. x Modanisa at Istanbul Fashion Week Modest in 2019 via a collaboration with modest clothing brand Modanisa.

Aden was the first hijab-wearing model to be signed with a major modeling agency, to grace international catwalks as well as the covers of Vogue Arabia, Allure and British Vogue in June 2017 and the January / February 2020 issue of Essence magazine .

Another first for the pioneering African woman was to wear a hijab and burkini in the May 2019 issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. A historic moment that saw Aden post a heartfelt message about diversity to her massive Instagram account, “des women from all walks of life, looks, education … can stand together and be celebrated. ” An affirmation to the world that was both festive and full of hope.

Diversity, modesty and all the rest

However, it was not all peach and roses for the East African pioneer of wearing the hijab in the fashion industry, as the same very famous achievements were also often heavily criticized.

Aden’s career – though successful and impressive, has seen the Somali model often having to walk literally and figuratively on fashion catwalks as she faces the challenges of navigating her Islamic faith, her dedication to a modest lifestyle in the context of an industry this can often be the antithesis of its values.

On the one hand, she would be praised by some industry analysts for pushing the fashion industry in the West to be more diverse and inclusive – when it comes to her Muslim faith and African characteristics and many girls and women. African and Afro women admired, applauded and felt inspired by her image in the context of beauty.

On the other hand, she would often find it difficult to get a modeling job because of the hijabi and would find herself the target of criticism from some Muslims for modeling clothes perceived as “immodest” or having men as makeup artists. or stylists.

As the first hijabi to accomplish such feats in the fashion industry – a rather polarizing and very public position, one can only imagine the weight of such a combined privilege and burden.

Muslim, Somali, Modest and Proud

As the Covid-19 pandemic hit and slowed down nearly every industry in the world, Halima Aden found herself at home with her family surrounded by her beautiful Somali culture and Muslim faith – with plenty of free time to reflect.

Although her right to wear her hijab became a non-negotiable part of her modeling contract early on in her career, and she never felt that she had to conform to the standards of Western society in order to be successful, the ambassador of UNICEF 2018 came to the conclusion that her modeling career pushed her further and further away from her core values ​​as a modest Muslim woman.

Therefore, she announced her departure from the fashion industry – moving away from millions of dollars to be made and an industry that many only dream of entering. In her words according to her Instagram profile, “DEEN on Dunyaa”. Indeed, as a devout Muslim, she chooses her spiritual values, i.e. Dīn (Arabic: دين, Romanized: Dīn, also anglicized as Deen) rather than dunyā (Arabic: دُنْيا) is that is, earthly temporal concerns.

Towards higher heights for Halima Aden

The former model said that if she had continued as she was, she might have even ended up removing the hijabi entirely, so she chose to gracefully quit the industry in order to save her own essence.

She has previously received words of support from the aforementioned living fashion icon Naomi Campbell and internationally successful recording artist turned beauty mogul and designer Rihanna – for whom Aden featured in a Fenty Beauty campaign. .

One can only expect the continued success that awaits Halima Aden in whatever she chooses to do professionally from now on.

As it is her right as a Muslim, as an African, as a woman and as a human being, to choose how she wants to express herself best in her life.

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