Halima Aden becomes first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model to wear hijab, burkini

The 21-year-old Somali American was also the first person to wear a hijab at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant in 2016.
Halima Aden is the first model to wear a hijab and burkini for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit
Halima Aden is the first model to wear a hijab and burkini for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.Yu Tsai / Sports Illustrated

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By Minyvonne Burke

Somali-American model Halima Aden is once again making history, this time by becoming the first woman to wear a burkini and a hijab for Sports Illustrated's 2019 swimsuit edition.

Aden, 21, who was born in Kenya and moved to Minnesota as a child, appears in the magazine wearing blue and black burkinis — a head-to-toe wetsuit worn by some Muslim women — paired with colorful coverings and matching hijabs.

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"This is literally a dream come true," Aden told Sports Illustrated. "I can't even tell you how this feels."

Halima Aden in Sports Illustrated's 2019 swimsuit edition.Yu Tsai / Sports Illustrated

For the photo shoot, Aden — who is also making her debut as a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model when the issue comes out next month — got to travel back to her home country and shoot at Watamu Beach.

“I keep thinking to 6-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” she said during her shoot. “So to grow up to live the American dream, 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 2016, Aden became the first contestant to wear a hijab and a burkini while competing in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, in which she was a semi-finalist. She was also the first Muslim-Somali student senator at her college, St. Cloud State University, in Minnesota.

“We believe beauty knows no boundaries,” Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day said. “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."

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition goes on sale May 8. Other models include Paulina Porizkova, Robin Holzken, Haley Kalil and Anne de Paula.