Muslim model Halima Aden quits fashion shows after feeling pressured to ‘compromise’ religious beliefs

Sarah Young
·4 min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Halima Aden has announced she is quitting runway shows.

The US fashion model, who has worked on campaigns for fashion brands like Rihanna's Fenty Beauty and Kanye West's Yeezy, says she has made the decision because working in the fashion industry has forced her to compromise her religious beliefs.

Aden became an overnight star when she made her modelling debut at New York Fashion week in 2017, aged 19 before going on to make history as the first hijab-wearing model on the cover of British Vogue, Sports Illustrated and American women’s beauty magazine, Allure.

Despite her impressive accolades, the 23-year-old, who was born to Somali parents in a Kenyan refugee camp, is turning her back on the high fashion industry.

Writing on her Instagram stories, the model explained how she began to re-evaluate her modelling career after feeling as though she was losing her sense of self.

She added that the coronavirus pandemic had given her the opportunity to reflect on her values and helped her realise that if she continued to work as a fashion model, she may stop embodying the values attached to her hijab “completely”.

“As I've said many times… being a minority inside of a minority inside of a minority is never easy,” Aden wrote.

"Being a 'hijabi' is truly a journey with lots of highs and lows."

Aden added that she became “so desperate” to represent her faith and community in the fashion world that she had ”lost touch“ with who she really is and would often put herself in compromising positions.

The model went on to explain that she sometimes missed prayer times and once agreed to having a pair of jeans draped over her head in place of her headscarf.

After the shoot, Aden said she ”sobbed“ in her hotel room.

"But… this isn't even my style?? Never was. Why did I allow them to put jeans on my head when at the time I had only ever worn skirts and long dresses?” she wrote.

“I went back to my hotel room and just sobbed after this shoot because deep down I knew this wasn't it. But was too scared to speak up. The truth is I was very UNCOMFORTABLE. This just ain't me.”

Aden later told her fans on Twitter not to “sell out”, adding that she blamed herself for caring “more about the opportunity” than “what was actually at stake” and praised her mother for helping to guide her through her struggles.

“[She] has been pleading with me for years to open my eyes,” Aden wrote. “Thanks to Covid and the break away from the industry I have finally realised where I went wrong in my personal hijab journey.

Instagram: @halima
Instagram: @halima

"Looking back now I did what I said I would never do.“

She added: “My hijab journey was the STRONGEST when I was surrounded by my sisters. That's a theme I'm discovering about myself now. My hijab was on point when I was surrounded by my Somali culture.”

A number of celebrities have spoken out in support for the model following her comments including Rihanna who reposted one of Aden’s Instagram stories, writing: “Love you so much Queen.”

Gigi and Bella Hadid also expressed their “love” for Aden, writing on social media that they were both “proud” of their friend.

“Everyone should go check out @Halima's story right now,” Gigi wrote on Instagram.

“It is so important, as a hijabi or not, to self-reflect and get back on track with what feels genuine to us – it's the only way to feel truly fulfilled.”

She continued: “I learnt through therapy once that if we are assertive with our boundaries, it does not mean that we are ungrateful for opportunity, and it will lead to an end result that does not feel hollow, one where we do not feel take advantage of.

“My sis Halima, you have inspired me since the day I met you and you continue to make me proud. Keep shining, big love.”

Aden concluded her social media posts by explaining how relieved she feels to have opened up about her experience in the fashion industry.

“Now I can sleep in peace. I’ve said my piece and I’ve leaving it there,” she wrote.

"Wow, this is actually the most RELIEF I felt since I started in 2016. Keeping that in was literal POISON!"

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