Halima Aden is starting the year off strong with a gorgeous cover of Essence Magazine, becoming the first hijab-wearing woman to feature on the magazine’s cover.
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The cover spread features Halima in coordinating red, green, yellow and purple outfits — each bright and bold and with a matching color-solid background — that perfectly represent the model’s style and voice. And, of course, they all include colorful hijabs to match. “May 2020 be as bold as my hijabs,” Halima wrote on Twitter, sharing some pics from the cover shoot.
In her accompanying interview, Halima took the time to speak on many important issues including the power of representation. She discussed the feeling of being the only one viewed as “different” in mostly white spaces and how that impacted her view of diversity and inclusivity.
“My mother doesn’t understand why representation is so important to me,” Halima told the publication. “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.”
“I respect my mom; she is the epitome of a strong, resilient woman,” she later added, expanding on the hardships her mother faced during the Somali civil war and how those shaped her until and after her family’s move to the United States. “In Kenya I spoke Somali and Swahili; I was so talkative,” Halima said. “But my school in St. Louis didn’t have an English as a second language program, so I spent most of my early months in America not talking at all.”
This isn’t the first time Halima has graced the cover of a major magazine in a hijab (she’s previously done just so for publications such as Allure, Vogue Arabia, Sports Illustrated, and, Teen Vogue, of course) and it certainly won’t be the last. “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,” she told Essence. “I want them to know the world will meet them exactly where they stand.”