Halima Aden says she is returning to fashion to “inspire” the world.
The 26-year-old became globally famous as she was the first woman to star in a hijab on the cover of Vogue – twice – and made history when she appeared in Sports Illustrated wearing a burkini, but stunned her industry by quitting it during the pandemic.
She told Grazia: “I was fortunate that I entered this industry with a massive bang and it was just go, go, go! But I didn’t have the chance to pause and reflect.
“The advice I would give to anyone is that it’s OK to slow down. Sit down. Take a breather. Meditate. Recentre.
“I think being grounded is the greatest gift you could give yourself.
“I’m so grateful that I gave myself that time to step back from the industry and focus on what really drives my heart, which is wanting to represent my refugee community and wanting to be a good role model to young Muslim
girls looking up to me.”
Former Somali refugee Halima – born in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, before emigrating to the US at the age of seven – caught the world’s attention in 2016 aged 19 when she became the first contestant to compete at the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant in traditional modest Muslim attire.
A global modelling contract with IMG soon followed, along with a lucrative career, walking in catwalk shows for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger in New York and Max Mara in Milan.
She has devoted the past three years to her role as a UNICEF ambassador, working with refugee camps in Nairobi, giving back to schools and the local community in her hometown in Minnesota and spending time with her family, especially her mother.
Halima added: “I’ve really got to know her on a much deeper level. She’s the reason why I am who I am.”
She said about returning to fashion: “My goals now revolve around making a meaningful impact in the fashion industry.
“I want to continue breaking barriers. I want to challenge stereotypes. I want to advocate for greater diversity and representation. I aspire to inspire. I want it to be a welcoming environment for everybody.”
Halima also said: “To this day, I still style my turbans. Nobody touches my headscarf.
“Now I want to work with other creatives to make the headpiece a part of the story, as opposed to just serving the purpose of covering my hair. That’s why I’m in fashion – to give other young modest, hijab-wearing women the chance to see it worn in different ways.”