Sports Illustrated has, in many ways, made good on its commitment to evolve its outdated perceptions of beauty by increasing representation over the past few years. It looks like the 2019 Swimsuit issue is no exception.
Halima Aden will become the first model to appear in the magazine wearing a hijab when the highly anticipated yearly issue hits newsstands on May 8. The Somali-American model, who has made a career of firsts, is pictured wearing two custom burkinis.
It’s a full-circle moment for Aden, who made headlines in 2016 for becoming the first Miss Minnesota contestant to compete wearing a hijab and burkini. She was also the first person to wear a hijab on the cover of Allure.
A career full of firsts, indeed.
In a release from the magazine, editor MJ Day doubled down on the claim that its priorities and ideals have shifted, and explained Aden’s role in the shift.
“Having Halima as a part of SI Swimsuit is yet another example of the range and scope of the type of beauty that exists,” she said. “Her participation and inclusion further highlights the brand’s commitment and belief in supporting women to own who they are and what makes them unique and ultimately reaffirms what our messaging has been, that YOU are worthy.”
It’s hard not to make direct comparisons to another mega entity founded on imagery of women posing in minimal clothing: the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. But while the lingerie brand has remained steadfast in its commitment to one very whitewashed and narrow standard of beauty, Sports Illustrated appears to be more evolved. For Aden’s part, she told HuffPost that she hopes her turn in the mag can not only provide representation but also understanding and opportunity.
“Being in Sports Illustrated is so much bigger than me,” she said. “It’s sending a message to my community and the world that women of all different backgrounds, looks, upbringings can stand together and be celebrated. This is a moment, that’s for sure. Women everywhere should know their differences are what make them beautiful.”
It’s true that at its conception and at its core, SI Swimsuit has mostly been a channel for people to ogle women in skimpy clothing. But Aden’s appearance ― while glamorous and beautiful ― goes much deeper than any changes we’ve seen in the magazine up until this point, especially when it comes to speaking to younger readers.
“Young Muslim women need to know that there is a modest swimsuit option available to them so they can join the swim team, participate in swim class at school, and go with their friends to the beach,” Aden said in a release. “Muslim girls should feel confident taking that step and doing so comfortably while wearing a burkini.”