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Halima Aden is first black woman on cover of Essence magazine in hijab

Halima Aden has made history again as the first black woman to grace the cover of Essence magazine in a hijab just months after her historical appearance in a burkini for Sports Illustrated.

by Valerie Edwards Dec 25th · 7 min read

Halima Aden has made history once again as the first black woman to grace the cover of Essence magazine in a hijab just months after her historical appearance in a burkini for Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue.

The Somali-American model celebrated the news in a tweet on Monday. 

'Ahhh!! My first cover of 2020 and it’s for @essence!! A huge thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly on this historic 50th anniversary cover, I’m so thankful to be the first black hijab wearing woman to be featured on Essence!' she tweeted.  

The tweet included Aden looking flawless in a pink hijab on the magazine's cover. 

Halima Aden (pictured) has made history once again as the first black woman to grace the cover of Essence magazine in a hijab just months after her historical appearance in a burkini for Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue

The Somali-American model celebrated the news in a tweet (pictured) on Monday

'There have been several moments in model Halima Aden's life when she’s broken a barrier by simply being who she is,' Essence shared in a news release on its website. 

'The model and activist was the first Muslim homecoming queen at her high school; the first Somali student senator at her college; and the first hijab-wearing woman to be the face of numerous fashion magazine covers, including Allure and British Vogue.

'In celebration of stepping into a new decade, Aden’s gracing the cover of ESSENCE’s January/February 2020 issue as the first Black female cover star wearing a hijab,' the statement reads.  

Aden told the magazine that 'it's important for me to be visible and to do whatever I can to let girls know that they don’t have to change who they are'.

'I want them to know the world will meet them exactly where they stand,' she added. 

Though the model shared her good news on Monday, it came just days after she was slammed for attending the MDL Beast music festival in Saudi Arabia.

Though the model (pictured in Saudi) shared her good news on Monday, it came just days after she was slammed for attending the MDL Beast music festival in Saudi Arabia

She was among several celebrities to be criticized for going to the festival in Riyadh without mentioning the country's controversial human rights record

She was among several celebrities to be criticized for going to the festival in Riyadh without mentioning the country's controversial human rights record.

The likes of Sofia Richie, Winnie Harlow, Alessandra Ambrosio, Joan Smalls, Irina Shayk, Stella Maxwell, Luka Sabbat, Armie Hammer, Scott Disick and Phillippe all shared multiple photos in recent days that were tagged in Riyadh.

The 22-year-old model appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue wearing a hijab and a burkini earlier this year. 

Aden, who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, returned to her birth country for her first shoot with the magazine, which was photographed by Yu Tsai at Watamu Beach.  

At the time, Sports Illustrated announced that Aden was the newest member of its 2019 rookie class while sharing some of the model's photos from her historic spread featured in the issue that was released on May 8. 

One image showed her lying on the wet sand wearing a colorful geometric print burkini. In another, she modeled a red hijab and a custom-made burkini featuring a beaded mock-turtleneck and sleeves. 

Aden lived at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya before moving to the US at the age of seven, and she couldn't help but reflect on her amazing journey during her shoot.  

'I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,' she told Sports Illustrated. 

Aden became the first Muslim model to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue wearing a hijab and a burkini earlier this year

The model was photographed lying in the sand wearing a colorful geometric print burkini 

Aden was born at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and lived there until she immigrated to the US at the age of seven

The Somali-American's photo shoot took place in her birth country at Watamu Beach

'So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya — I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.'

In honor of her appearance in the magazine, Sports Illustrated shared a behind-the-scenes video of her on set at the shoot. 

'This is literally a dream come true,' she gushed. 'I can't even tell you how this feels.'

Representation is important for Aden, who grew up at a time when there were very few women who looked and dressed like her in the media.  

'Growing up in the states, I never really felt represented because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab,' she explained in the clip.  

In 2016, she was the first woman to wear a hijab and a burkini in the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant, where she placed as a semi-finalist.  

'I can't even tell you what that moment meant to me,' she said, recounting how the crowd roared when she stepped on stage.

Looking back: In a behind-the-scenes clip from the shoot, she admitted that she never felt represented when she was growing up

Reflection: Aden said that during her shoot she kept thinking back to her six-year-old self who was in a refugee camp in the same country 

Amazing: The model, who spent time with locals during the shoot, said she is living the 'American dream' 

Inspiration: Aden said her message has always been: 'Don't be afraid to be the first'

Aden admitted that she was scared they would boo or refuse to clap for her because she was wearing a hijab.  

'It's scary because it's not my culture to do pageantry. It's very much an American culture. But that's always been my messaging,' she said. 'Don't be afraid to be the first.'

A year after the pageant, she became the first hijab-wearing model to sign with a major modeling agency. She signed with IMG in February 2017, and that same month she made her runway debut in Kanye West's Yeezy show.  

Aden is continuing to her shatter perceptions about women who dress modestly by appearing in Sports Illustrated, a magazine that is best known for its sizzling spreads featuring scantily clad models. 

In recent years, Sports Illustrated has proven its dedication to diversity by embracing models of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicity, and her inclusion in this year's issue is a ground-breaking step towards representation for more modest fashion.  

'We believe beauty knows no boundaries,' said Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day. 'I admire Halima, and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador. 

Shattering perceptions: Aden's inclusion in this year's issue is a ground-breaking step towards representation for women who dress modestly for religious reasons 

Historic appearance: In 2016, she was the first woman to wear a hijab and a burkini in the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant, where she placed as a semi-finalist

Success: After becoming the first hijab-wearing model to sign with a major modeling agency, she made her runway debut and has become a fixture on the catwalk 

'She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. When we met, I was instantaneously taken by her intelligence, enthusiasm, and authenticity,' she added. 

The editor said that she and Halima 'bonded immediately over the idea of her participating in this year's issue,' which marks the first time that such modest swimwear has appeared in the magazine.   

'We both believe the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective,' MJ said. 'We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing based on how they look or what they wear. 

'Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY.' 

SI Swim has been celebrating a lot of firsts lately. This year, Winnie Harlow became the first-ever model with vitiligo to pose for the magazine, while Veronica Pome’e became the first-ever Polynesian model to appear in the annual Swimsuit Issue.

And it was only four years ago in 2015 that Ashley Graham became the first plus-size model to pose for the magazine, and she landed a cover just a year later.

last updated: 2019-12-25@23:12