Sports Illustrated Swimsuit has announced a historic milestone

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A Somalian refugee has made history as the first model to grace the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition wearing a hijab and burkini.

Model Halima Aden has been featured in the 2019 Rookie Spread of the magazine wearing designer burkinis, hijabs and head scarfs.

The sports magazine’s annual swimsuit edition has faced criticism by feminist commentators for decades over its failure to represent women of different ethnicities and its objectification of the women in its pages.

But the latest issue, which will hit newsstands in early May, shows a significant shift in the publication’s priorities.

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A post shared by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit (@si_swimsuit) on

The design team decided to fly 21-year-old Halima back to her home country of Kenya to shoot on location.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated, Halima said she couldn’t believe how lucky she was to come full circle.

“I keep thinking back to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” she said.

“So 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.”

Halima Aden has made history in the pages of Sports Illustrated.

Halima Aden has made history in the pages of Sports Illustrated.Source:Instagram

Stretched out on Watamu Beach, in a small coastal town north of Mombasa, the stunning model posed for photographer Yu Tsai, wearing outfits including a blue bodysuit and turquoise kaftan and a burkini covered in geometric blocks of primary colours.

The magazine’s editor MJ Day said Halima is “one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside”.

“When we met, I was instantaneously taken by her intelligence, enthusiasm and authenticity,” Day said.

So, who is the stunning woman making history in the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit?

Halima Aden is a 21-year-old Somali-American model.

Halima Aden is a 21-year-old Somali-American model.Source:Instagram


The Somali-American was born in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where she spent the first seven years of her life.

Her family then moved to the US, where she maintained her Kenyan traditions and her Islamic faith.

In her late teens, she showed an interest in competing in beauty pageants but refused to compromise her traditional Islamic beliefs, so she would enter the competitions wearing hijabs and burkinis.

A post shared by Halima Aden (@khalimaaden) on

At 19, she made headlines as the first girl to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant and made it through to the semi-finals.

Since then, Halima’s career has taken off, walking the runways of New York Fashion Week and gracing the cover of Vogue around the world, Elle and Paper Magazine — the publication that helped Kim Kardashian “break the internet”.

Halima Aden graced the cover of British Vogue with other game changing models.

Halima Aden graced the cover of British Vogue with other game changing models.Source:Supplied


Halima’s work has carved a steady path for Muslim women everywhere to make it in the fashion industry.

Calling herself a “burkini babe”, Halima said she could never find a safe space for Muslim women in the mainstream media.

“I never really felt represented because I could never flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab,” she told Sports Illustrated.

Halima Aden recently made the cover of Paper Magazine.

Halima Aden recently made the cover of Paper Magazine.Source:Supplied

According to Halima, her SI Swimsuit feature has been a “dream come true”.

“I can’t believe that this is my life,” she said.

“I can’t believe that this is what I get to do for work, I’m just so grateful.”

In an interview with Good Morning America, Halima told the hosts there were moments where the team were “breaking down crying because it’s a huge moment”.

“Sports Illustrated is proving that a girl that’s wearing a bikini can be right alongside a girl that’s wearing a burkini,” she said.

“And as women … we can come alongside each other and be each other’s biggest cheerleaders celebrating the diversity of women.”

She has also made the cover of Vogue Arabia.

She has also made the cover of Vogue Arabia.Source:Supplied

Halima also made the cover of UK Elle Magazine.

Halima also made the cover of UK Elle Magazine.Source:Supplied


The magazine appears to have been championing greater diversity in its models over recent years, featuring plus-sized models and women of colour in its pages and on its covers.

The publication recently featured Canadian model Winnie Harlow who lives with the skin condition vitiligo.

Plus-sized model Hunter McGrady has also made the cut in next month’s rookie feature beside Halima Aden.

Day said the idea of beauty was “so vast and subjective” and the magazine was moving towards reflecting that more each issue.

“Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, you are worthy,” he said.

Author Shanelle Green

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