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Halima Aden

Somali model Halima Aden is the first-ever hijab-wearing model in the fashion world.

Aden was born in Kakuma, a Kenyan refugee camp, after her family fled civil war in Somalia. She lived there for seven years with her parents before traveling to the United States and settling in St. Louis. Though she spoke Somali and Swahili, Aden was thrust into an English-speaking school system that lacked a language-immersion curriculum. Despite this, she quickly found herself in advanced placement English classes in high school – outperforming her classmates and demonstrating the resilience that makes her a powerhouse today. Continuing in her roster of early accomplishments, Aden holds becoming her high school's first Muslim/Somali Homecoming Queen as one of her proudest moments. "There was never a student [like me] nominated before," she says. "Homecoming Queen is a very important American cultural tradition, and my win inspired other girls in my town."

The model first made headlines after competing in the Miss USA state pageant wearing a hijab and sporting a burkini in the swimsuit portion of the competition – a first in the event’s 65-year history. She finished among the top 15 finalists but won a bigger prize overall: Her performance caught the eye of French Fashion Editor Carine Roitfeld, who recruited her to appear in what was Aden’s first editorial. The CR Fashion Book cover (another first) came as a surprise to Aden, marking the beginning of a new cultural phenomenon. She has been covered by Vogue Arabia, British Vogue, Grazia UK, S Moda and Allure, the latter which heralded her as an all-American beauty, a crucial acknowledgment for America's Muslim community.

Editorial credits for Aden include Harper's Bazaar and Glamour, and the runways of Yeezy, Alberta Ferretti, Max Mara, Philipp Plein, and Dolce & Gabbana.  Rihanna tapped her to appear in her Fenty Beauty campaign.

Regardless of her meteoric success, Aden’s altruism is what impresses people the most: "I want this to be greater than me. Every editorial, every cover, every campaign that I do is as much for me as it is for [women in my community]."

Aden is currently partnered with UNICEF, and strives to become a UN Ambassador and return to Kenya  to instill hope in refugees. When she's not working, she covets time spent with family and friends on the couch indulging in Netflix marathons.

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