Civic associations aside, First Lady is a term that characterizes Somali model Halima Aden. Among her achievements of firsts, the most visible is that of being the first ever hijab-wearing model in the world of fashion, though there are much more. And despite a relatively short time in the industry, albeit full of incredible successes, her trajectory more than hints that Halima is well on her way to becoming the first ever hijab-wearing supermodel.
Halima was born in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya, after her family fled civil war in Somalia. She lived there for seven years with her parents before traveling to the United States and settling in Minnesota. Though she spoke Somali and Swahili, Halima was thrust into an English-speaking school system that lacked a language immersion curriculum entirely. Despite this seeming detriment, Halima quickly found herself in advanced placement English classes in high school – outperforming her classmates and demonstrating the resilience that makes her a powerhouse today. Continuing in her roster of early accomplishments, Halima holds becoming her high school's first Muslim/Somali homecoming queen as one of her proudest moments. "There was never a student [like me] nominated before," Halima reflects. "Homecoming queen is a very important American cultural tradition, and my win inspired other girls in my town."
Her inspiration-inducing presence, of course, only began in her St. Cloud, MN high school. Halima first made headlines after competing in the Miss USA pageant wearing a hijab and sporting a burkini in the swimsuit portion of the competition – a first in the 65-year history of the event. She finished among the top 15 finalists but won a bigger prize overall. Her performance caught the eye of Carine Roitfeld who recruited her to appear in what was Halima's first editorial. The CR Fashion Book cover (another first), however, came as a surprise to Halima and marked the beginning of a new cultural phenomenon. Since then, Halima has covered Vogue Arabia and Allure in which the publication heralded her as an all-American beauty, a crucial acknowledgment for America's Muslim community. Editorial credits for Halima also include Harper's Bazaar and Glamour, and she appeared on the runway for Yeezy, Alberta Ferretti and Max Mara. Most recently, entertainer Rihanna tapped the glowing beauty to appear in the campaign for her inclusive beauty brand, Fenty Beauty.
Regardless of the meteoric success Halima has garnered, her altruism is what leaves the people she encounters breathless. Not only because it is a rare trait to find amongst most 20-year-olds, but also because it is so genuine Halima must be prompted to turn conversations onto herself. "I want this to be greater than me. Every editorial, every cover, every campaign that I do is as much for me as it is for [women in my community]."
Halima is currently a UNICEF Ambassador and strives to one day become a UN Ambassador to return to Kenya and instill hope in refugees. When she's not working or studying for her college courses, she covets time spent with family and friends on the couch indulging in Netflix marathons. In 2020, it was announced that Halima would be joining the Vogue Arabia team as the Diversity Editor-at-Large, to further the magazine's commitment to showcasing racial inclusivity at a time when it is so crucially needed.
31 December 1969
Photography Yulia Gorbachenko | Styling Anna Castan