Meet the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model to wear a hijab and burkini

SI model makes history wearing hijab, burkini
Copyright Yu Tsai Sports Illustrated
Copyright Yu Tsai Sports Illustrated
By Lindsay Lowe with TODAY Lifestyle
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She's sharing her story of the American dream.


This model is making history in a beautiful way!

Halima Aden, 21, just became the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model to wear a hijab and a burkini in the magazine.

Yu Tsai
Aden is making history.Yu Tsai

She posed in a series of gorgeous custom-made hijabs and burkinis, a kind of wetsuit that some Muslim women wear to stay covered at the beach.

The Somali-American model was born in Kenya and grew up in a refugee camp there until she was 7-years-old, when she moved to the United States.

So, she was thrilled to visit Kenya's gorgeous Watamu Beach for her groundbreaking Sports Illustrated shoot.

"I keep thinking (back) to 6-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp," Aden told the magazine. "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."

Aden made a huge splash in the fashion world when she became the first contestant to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant in 2016.

She went on to sign with IMG models, landed the cover of Vogue and has walked the runway for designers including Tommy Hilfiger and Max Mara.

"There are a lot of reasons why I love my hijab — the symbolism, the meaning, the tradition — but most of all, it makes me feel like me when I wear it," Aden wrote in an essay for TODAY Style in 2017.

She revealed that growing up, she sometimes didn't want to wear her hijab because she felt like she wouldn't fit in with her peers. But as she got older, she embraced that meaningful part of her culture and religion.

"I've learned to love myself and hold my cultural and religious upbringing dear, no matter what others around me say or think," she wrote.

"We are all uniquely beautiful and should be fearless when it comes to dressing in a way that is most representative of who we are inside," she added. "I have been so overjoyed by the outpouring of support I have received from people around the world who are inspired by my commitment to being the most authentic version of myself."

You can check out her other inspiring photos in the 2019 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, on newsstands nationwide May 8.

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