• Lauren Booth

Halima Aden calls out fashion world for its inability to deal with Muslim models

Hijabi supermodel tells designers 'Come correct or don't come at all.'

By: Lauren Booth

Somali-US fashion model Halima Aden has told the world she has quit runway shows, stating the industry forced her to compromise her religion.

Aged just 19, she became an overnight star, hailed as the world's first Muslim hijab-wearing supermodel. Since her deburt in 2017, she has fronted campaigns for the likes of Rihanna's Fenty Beauty and Kanye West's Yeezy.

Just four years on, the 23-year-old, born to Somali parents in a Kenyan refugee camp, has decided to challenge personal changes she made ‘to further my career.’

Halima admitted she wished she'd always worn the full hijab style rather than compromising her Islamically-inspired modesty, when she felt pushed.

'I wish I never stopped bringing my black hijab to set. Because the minute I got comfortable … well, let's just say I got too carried away.'

In her four years on the fashion and celebrity circuit, she recognised negative impacts not just to her ‘style’ but to her spiritual connection to her faith, Islam.

The series of posts is causing a storm and raising questions about brands who, appear to champion individual identity, whilst compromising young women’s sense of self.

'As if we ever needed these brands to represent hijabis’ Aden wrote.

'They need us. Never the other way around. But I was so desperate back then for any "representation" that I lost touch with who I was.'

American Eagle Outfitters campaign was a major boost to the aspiring models portfolio. It called on young consumers to "find your style" - Aden, ironically, said she felt she had lost her own.

Aden added she often put herself in compromising positions - including missing obligatory prayer times in the Islamic faith and agreeing to being draped with a pair of jeans in place of a headscarf.

Whilst others have struggled due to Covid-related isolation, Aden, has found spending time with her family, especially her mother, inspiring. She said:

'Thanks to Covid-19 and the break away from the industry, I have finally realized where I went wrong in my personal hijab journey.'

Her message to her 1.2m followers on Instagram is a warning to other young sisters regarding modelling careers. Aden wrote that unless she changed direction, she may have stopped wearing and embodying the values of the hijab “completely"

From November 2020, Aden says she will retire from runway fashion shows and keep modelling only if her hijab is "visible" in a way that is deemed appropriate to her.

"If my hijab can't be this visible - I'm not showing up period...This is the standard moving forward if you want to work with me. Come correct or don't come at all.”

The current passion for individual authenticity can only resonate if applied to all sectors in society - including the body and modesty preferences of Muslim women.

In related news, BBC News has been criticized for appearing to blame Aden's 'religious views' on her quitting catwalk modelling. Rather than referencing the incapacity of a non inclusive industry to deal with a Muslim model.

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