Halima Aden, 19 of St. Cloud, is all over the media and for a special reason (our very own JB Wilde reported on her too). She is the first contestant to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant wearing a hijab (head scarf) and burkini (see picture to the left) this past weekend while standing firm in her authenticity of her Muslim faith. She wore her hijab the entire time while competing. Obtaining approval to don a burkini was a remarkable unique step for a competition like this, especially since we're so accustomed to seeing revealing swimwear on the contestants. Aden may have been covered up a bit more but it certainly didn't hold her back in the competition. She made it to the semi-finals with ease. While she did not win the reigning crown of Miss Minnesota USA, she did win the hearts of many of us by just being herself - confidently beautiful.

I reached out to Halima for an interview and she accepted! I am delighted to share it with you:

Halima Aden
Halima Aden

DT: What inspired you to compete in Miss Minnesota USA?

HA: I got the idea from watching the Olympics. Growing up, I thought Muslim women couldn't participate in sports because of the immodest clothes. I remember feeling so proud when I saw the Somali women participating. It's really important that we don't allow obstacles to get in the way of us succeeding.

DT: How did it feel to compete/dress differently than the other contestants? Were you nervous about blazing your own trail or felt confident?

HA: Being one of the first Somali girls to do this pageant, it can be very nerve wrecking. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't want to offend or upset anyone. I just wanted to have the platform to get people to see the other side of Muslims. That we are hard workers, volunteers, and full of wisdom.

I'm overwhelmed by the amount of support I've been getting. People from all over the country have reached out to me. I loved seeing the conversations that were started and really seeing my community come together. My little cousin told me that she would never show her hair again to let the other kids at school know that she wasn't bald. I was so proud of her for realizing that our hijab is a symbol of inner beauty. The extra layers of clothing should not affect anyone because it's your inner beauty and kindness that matters most.

Doing this pageant was important to me because I want fair representation. For a competition that is about beauty and intelligence, all women should be included. I wanted to show young girls that it is possible to do things and still stay true to your values. I figured one of the hardest thing a woman could do without comprising her religion would be participating in a pageant where the contestants wear bikinis and even that is possible to do.

DT: What is your advice to young girls and how they should view their bodies?

HA: We need to support our young girls by giving them the tools to love and respect themselves. I think it's important to have a workshop setup where young girls are taught about confidence and self-love. The media doesn't fairly represent us, so it is our job as Muslim women to remind our younger sisters that they are brilliant just the way they are. They don't need to conform or change the way they look to please the world.

DT: I always ask this question to people I interview - what's your favorite inspiring quote or who is your inspiration?

HA: It's okay to look up to women like Jennifer Lopez or Opera Winfrey, but it's also important to remember that we have women in Islam who are very influential such as Nusayba b. Ka‘b al-Anṣārīyya and Shajar al-Durr.

I've gotten a lot of messages from Muslim girls as well as non-Muslim girls saying that my story has inspired them. I think that we live in a society that focuses on looks more than inner beauty and intelligences. This girl messaged me and said that growing up a lot of people made fun of her for wearing the hijab so when she saw my story she was overwhelmed with joy.

DT: If you could do this all over again, would you?

HA: This competition wasn't about winning or losing for me. I was sick of seeing Muslim women portrayed as victims of oppression. The reality is that we as Muslim women have a choice. We are choosing to be covered because that's what we feel is right for us. I grew up in a religious household but not once have I been oppressed. It's not fair that a nun can choose to cover up and society calls her a woman of God, but when a Muslim does the same she is called oppressed.

I'm doing this pageant to represent Muslim women in a year that has been challenging for all of us. I'm hoping all women from all different races, religions, and backgrounds can unite and work together to improve the adversities we face. This is also a great opportunity to meet other young women who also have goals and ambitions. It's a great way to get scholarships and work with different organizations in my community. I think my participation will once again show that Somali Americans are no different than most people in this state. I'm hoping that this has brought us closer together.

Future Productions, LLC

Side note: You may be confused as to why there are two Miss Minnesota's? In fact, our very own amazing Rochester native, Madeline Van Ert was crowned as such. So what's the difference? Van Ert is from the Miss America organization. Aden competed in the Miss USA organization. Here's an in depth look at the difference between the Miss America and Miss USA pageants.



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