Why Halima Aden in NYFW as a Refugee Somali Hijabi Woman is Significant

Posted on Feb 19, 2017
Haute Hijab Staff


Remember Halima Aden, the Kenyan-born Somali refugee who made waves as the first hijabi contestant in the Miss Minnesota pageant last year? Well, she’s back, and badder than ever!

Last week, the 19-year-old was signed by IMG Models, the biggest modeling agency in the world. Just five days later, she walked the Yeezy “Season 5” show at NYFW in full hijab and a floor-length fur coat.

Needless to say, as the first hijabi IMG Model, let alone the first hijabi model to walk a high profile fashion show, Halima caught the country’s attention. She was featured in magazines and news outlets right and left, including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Huffington Post, just to name a few. But it doesn’t stop there. Halima will also have her own spread in the March issue of CR Fashion Book. Woman’s March Twitter account even shouted her out, tweeting, "#HalimaAden is the future of fashion! The 19-year-old Somali-American (born in a refugee camp) made her #NYFW debut rocking a hijab."

Here are some reasons why Halima's NYFW debut is so significant:

1. She disrupts the mainstream misconceptions about Muslim women + hijab. 

This is so important to Halima, who spent the first few years of her life in a Kenyan refugee camp, and as a teen in the US, was bullied for wearing her hijab. She’s since made it her mission to disrupt the mainstream misconceptions about Muslim women. In an interview with Business of Fashion, Halima said, “I wanted to spread a positive message about beauty and diversity, and to show other young Muslim women that there is room for them”. She also said, "for a very long time, I thought, 'what if every American had a Muslim friend? They would understand us better. It all stems from not knowing. I wanted to be that friend, that Muslim person people could look at."

2. She proves to Muslim girls that you can stick to your faith and identity, and still succeed. 

What has continuously set Halima apart throughout her budding career is her total commitment to being herself and not compromising or downplaying her identity. To us, this is one of the biggest reasons why Halima’s achievement is so significant. It is actually what caught the attention of both IMG and CR Fashion Book’s editor, and now, the rest of the country. By being true to herself and fearlessly pursuing her goals, Halima shows Muslim girls that being different can surely pave the way to success. In her own words, “if you’re blending in, you’re doing something wrong.”



3. Her participation in the country's biggest fashion event makes a political statement.

Halima’s intersectional identity as a Somali-American refugee hijab-wearing Muslim woman (phew!) makes a bold political statement to President Trump and his cabinet. Trump's failed Muslim ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries includes Somalia, where Halima is from. Her representation in NYFW and IMG models signifies that Muslim Americans are an integral and beautiful part of this country, and no ban can change that. As the president of IMG Models Ivan Bart stated, “We need to reflect in fashion who we are as a human race,” and Halima has done just that.


If there is one thing to learn from Halima, it’s that nothing can stop a Muslim girl from pursuing her dreams—whatever and wherever they may be, and that there is nothing strange about a Muslim woman being both modest and beautiful. In fact, therein lies her power.

What are your thoughts on Halima Aden's participation in NYFW? Share them in the comments below!