Halima Aden makes history as first model to wear a hijab and burkini in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

By Caitlin O'Kane

/ CBS News

Halima Aden on importance of uplifting women

Somali-American model Halima Aden just made history by gracing the pages of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue wearing a hijab and burkini. The Kenyan-born model said it was a "dream come true."

Sports Illustrated announced the newest member of its "Swimsuit family" on Monday. The iconic magazine said for Aden's swimsuit spread, they chose the perfect place: her birth country. Her photoshoot was shot on Watamu Beach with photographer Yu Tsai.

Model Halima Aden is working to expand the traditional definition of beauty. Sports Illustrated/Yu Tsai

Aden opened up about how much the photoshoot meant to her in an interview with SI. "Growing up in the states, I never felt represented, because I could never flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab," she said.

She spoke about living in a refugee camp in Kenya until the age of seven. She then moved to Minnesota, where she began making history at a young age as her town's first homecoming queen.

She then went on to become her college's first Muslim-Somali student senator. "After that, I remember thinking, 'What next?' And that's when I came across the Miss Minnesota USA pageant." Aden was the first to wear a hijab in the pageant in 2016.

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“I never really felt represented, because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab.” @halima #shatteringperceptions #SISwim • • • @hemingwayscollection @officialkenyaairways #HemingwaysWatamu #LetKQTakeYouThere

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Aden said pageantry is outside of her culture, but she took a leap of faith and tried it out. Ever since, her motto has become "don't ever be afraid to be the first."

The model has since landed on the cover of British Vogue and walked during New York Fashion Week. She's hasn't just been professionally successful, but is also working to expand of the traditional definition of beauty, SI noted.

"[W]hether you are wearing one-piece, a two-piece, or a burkini, you are the pilot of your own beauty," the magazine wrote.

In her interview with SI, Aden said she was in disbelief that she got this opportunity. "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," Aden said.

The model shared a shot from her photoshoot on her personal Instagram, writing an inspiring message in the caption: "Don't change yourself .. Change the GAME!! Ladies anything is possible!!!"

First published on April 29, 2019 / 4:27 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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