Halima Aden: 'My mother doesn't understand why representation is important'

Halima Aden

Halima Aden's mother doesn't understand why representation is so important to her daughter.

The Somali-American model was born in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya before her family relocated to the U.S. when she was seven years old, and she has since gone on to break barriers for Muslim women, by becoming the first person to wear a burkini and hajib in the Minnesota Miss USA competition in 2016 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue last year.

While Halima is glad she is helping Muslim women feel represented by her fashion work, she has now revealed that her mother isn't quite as enthusiastic, and she believes this is because she didn't have to cope with being in the minority while growing up.

"My mother doesn't understand why representation is so important to me," she told Essence magazine. "Of course, she wants the same things for me that all parents want for their children - that I be of service, be a good person, lead an honest life, work hard, and get an education. But, at the same time, she doesn't know the struggle I faced growing up in America and being in spaces where I was the only hijab-wearing girl or the only girl who looked like me."

And Halima is thrilled that she has been given a platform to make Muslim women, and women of colour, feel more visible and confident in themselves.

"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," the 22-year-old said. "I want them to know the world will meet them exactly where they stand."

Halima is now working with officials at the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to speak out on behalf of displaced children. Accordingly, she sees the opportunity as a way to give back to the workers at the organisation who helped her in Kakuma.

"I think if you receive a blessing, you shouldn't think of it as yours to keep. It's more like a loan. Like, I got my wish. Now I have to pay it forward. If we all paid it forward, the world would be a much better place... I think this is the reason I am here," she shared.

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