In a much-needed step forward for diversity in fashion, IMG has signed hijab-wearing model Halima Aden. The Minnesota teen made her Fashion Week debut, walking in Yeezy Season 5 and is slated to appear in the next CR Fashion Book.
According to Business of Fashion, Aden is Somali-American and has lived in the U.S. since she was 7, when her family relocated from a refugee camp in Kenya. (Minnesota, according to census data, has the largest Somali community in the U.S.) Aden is now 19, attends St. Cloud State University, and is about to be the chicest girl on campus.
The contract with IMG didn’t quite come out of nowhere. Last year, Aden competed in the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant and made headlines for appearing in her hijab. During the swimsuit portion, she wore a burkini, a first for the state.
“I didn’t really have modeling in mind,” Aden said of decision to enter the beauty pageant. “I wanted to spread a positive message about beauty and diversity, and to show other young Muslim women that there is room for them.”
Her thoughtful decision has led not only to success for Aden, but also to a victory for the Muslim community. “We just needed one more thing to unify us,” she told Minnesota Public Radio at the time. “This is a small act, but I feel like having the title of Miss Minnesota USA when you are a Somali-American, when you are a Muslim woman, I think that would open up people’s eyes.”
Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models, has clearly taken Aden’s instincts — on both fashion and politics — into consideration. “By representing Halima, I would hope that the next 10-year-old girl wearing her hijab right now will feel included in the experience of fashion, and know that she could do that too,” he said.