Halima Aden was born in the Kakuma refugee camp in northeastern Kenya and moved to the United States when she was 7. A few week ago, she returned to Watamu Beach along the Kenyan Coast for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot.
This photo shoot was for a special purpose. Halima Aden will be the first woman to be featured in the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit edition wearing a hijab or a burkini. The edition featuring Halima hits the stand on Wednesday. In the past, she has appeared on the covers of Allure, British Vogue and Glamour Magazine.
Ms. Aden rose to prominence in 2016 when she wore a hijab and burkini during the swimsuit competition of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She said that also made her feel a bit of culture shock.
“It is not my culture to do pageantry, it is very much an American culture,” she said in the video. “But that has always been my message: Don’t be afraid to be the first.”
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Halima described the culture shock she felt upon her arrival in the United States from Kenya:
“We landed in St. Louis, like the most impoverished part,” she said. “I remember stepping off and thinking, ‘This is a refugee camp, I want to go back home!’ We moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota, and life started looking up from there.”
The swimwear shoot has earned the model praise from social media users and public figures such as Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was also born in the Kakuma refugee camp before relocating to America.
Congratulations @Kinglimaa on being the first model to ever wear a burkini in Sports Illustrated! As my fellow Minnesotan and Somali refugee, I am so proud of you for working to get here and to propel the conversation forward ✊🏽 https://t.co/C1VsZdBgMv
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 5, 2019