Halima Aden is a 19-year-old from St. Cloud and the daughter of Somali immigrants. Like another recent history-making Minnesotan, Ilhan Omar, she lived in a refugee camp in Kenya before emigrating to the United States at age 6. Watch this local news coverage of Halima’s participation in the pageant.
She said she hoped her participation in the pageant would help empower other Muslim women and girls: “Not seeing women that look like you in media in general and especially in beauty competitions sends the message that you’re not beautiful or you have to change the way you look to be considered beautiful,” Aden said. “And that’s not true.” During the swimsuit competition, Halima graced a fully covered burkini.
Halima made the semifinals of the competition, but unfortunately did not make the top 5 cut. Nonetheless she hopes her participation will inspire determination in other Muslim women to be confidently who they are. “With all the negativity right now … I know so many women who stopped wearing the hijab because they were scared,” Aden told USA TODAY. “When I heard about the platform, I wanted to inspire Muslim women to challenge themselves … (but) I didn’t want to compromise my values.”
Halima is passionate about changing the way Muslim women are represented in the media. “Most images of Muslim woman are attached to victimhood … I never see positive representation, the way I see other women being celebrated. I wanted to challenge those definitions of beauty,” she continued. “It can be blonde hair and blue eyes, but it can also be something different.”
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