Halima Aden Wore a Burkini and Hijab at Miss Minnesota USA to Compete As Her Authentic Self

Halima Aden wore a burkini and hijab and the Miss Minnesota USA pageant during a time when both Muslims and their garments are under threat.

When Halima Aden took to the stage on the Miss Minnesota USA pageant wrapped in a burkini instead a bikini, she was the first to do so. The full body bathing suit, designed for Muslim women, was slim-fitting and charcoal blue, paired with a beige hijab. The 19-year-old Somali-American says she choses to wear the clothes and wanted to represent her culture in a positive light. Minnesota has the nation's largest Somali community and just elected the country's first Somali-American lawmaker.

"I’m going in as me, my authentic self. I’m not going to dress down or change myself," Aden told the Huffington Post.

There was one other Somali-American competing named Muna Ali, although she slipped into a bikini.

A photo posted by Halima Aden ? (@kinglimaa) on

The bikinis themselves seem to actually be more controversial. Miss Teen USA dropped them this year in favor of an athletic wear competition. Miss World did the same a couple years back. While Miss USA itself has no similar notions, the swimwear was much less revealing for the majority of its history.

In 2010, Rima Fakih became the first Arab and Muslim woman to win the Miss USA pageant, and the proto-alt-right lost their collective wigs. One of Giuliani's advisors called the contest rigged and another prominent blogger went as far as to label her "Miss Hezbollah." But Fakih, a Lebanese-American whose family is also part Christian, was comfortable wearing a bikini.

Aden has taken her step in a more hateful environment since the election this month. It also flies in the face of Donald Trump, who owned the pageant for nearly 20 years before being forced to sell due to general creepiness, and had linked the Somali community in Minnesota to ISIS. She also faced pushback from her mother and other Somali community members who didn't want her to even enter the competition.

Aden, who was raised in a Kenyan refugee camp before emigrating to the state when she was 6-years-old, made the move at a time when governments and organizations across the world try to ban the garments, to varying effect. Despite their fraught acceptance in the Western world these days, the hijab had another surprising victory earlier in the month. YouTube make-up tutorial star Nura Afia also made headlines for being the first model to wear a hijab in CoverGirl cosmetic advertisements.

Unfortunately, Aden may not have won the Minnesota contest, but she's won our hearts.

Photo by Meztli Yoalli Rodríguez

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