“I keep thinking [back] to 6-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp. 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.”
Usually known for its pictures of bikini-clad models frolicking on the beach, the 2019 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue will be more inclusive this time around. It’ll feature Somali-American model Halima Aden in a burkini (a full body swimsuit!) and hijab. She holds bragging rights as the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini in this highly-anticipated annual edition, that will come out next month.
Halima Aden grew up in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, before moving with her family to the US at the age of seven. For the photo shoot, Halima Aden had the chance to travel back to her home country and shoot at Watamu Beach.
SI Swimsuit editor MJ Day said that “We believe beauty knows no boundaries. 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. She is, in my opinion, 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 continued: “We both believe the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective. We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, you are worthy.”
Halima Aden previously made history at age 19 by competing in the 2016 Miss Minnesota USA pageant as the first person to ever wear a hijab and burkini during the show. She eventually made it to the semi-finals of the competition.
She aptly summed up her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit experience by saying that, “This feature is proving that a fully covered hijab wearing model can confidently stand alongside a beautiful woman in a revealing bikini and together they can celebrate one another, cheer each other on, and champion each other’s successes.”