Halima Aden has made history as the first Somali-American Miss Minnesota USA contestant, and the first to be fully covered, wearing a hijab in the pageant.
Aden hails from St. Cloud, Minnesota. The 19-year-old did not ultimately take home the title but felt that her bigger purpose was to challenge Western standards of beauty and combat the Islamophobia she has encountered.
“The people that are doing bad things, they don’t represent an entire group,” Aden said, according to ABC 7.
In addition to wearing a hijab throughout the competition, Aden also sported a burkini during the swimsuit competition. The Miss Universe organization was pleased with their decision to select Aden for the competition.
“The organization continues to evolve as women evolve. The Miss Universe organization is proud to be the forefront of the diversity of beauty,” said Denise Wallace, director of Miss Minnesota USA and Miss Minnesota Teen USA.
Aden was born in a Kenyan refugee camp before her family moved to the United States when she was a child. Aden is no stranger to bullying because of her decision to wear the hijab and has also been privy to rising tensions against the Somali community in her hometown of St. Cloud after the recent victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
“We just needed one more thing to unify us. This is a small act, but I feel like having the title of Miss Minnesota USA when you are a Somali-American, when you are a Muslim woman, I think that would open up people’s eyes,” Aden told MPR.