A -19-year-old Somali-American beauty queen became the first woman to wear a burkini and hijab during the Miss Minnesota pageant over the weekend. Halima Aden wore the burkini during the swimsuit portion of the event and the traditional Muslim headpiece during the entire competition.
Aden, a student at St. Cloud State University, was born in a Kenyan refugee camp, and moved to the U.S. when she was six years old. She said an uptick in Islamophobia across the U.S. in recent years has sparked concern in her community. "The people that are doing bad things, they don't represent an entire group," Aden said. "I feel like I'm here to bust those misconceptions and stereotypes of Muslim women."
Aden, who lives in St. Cloud, paired her hijab with an evening dress at one point during the beauty contest. Aden told local reporters she enjoys dressing modestly.
"A lot of people will look at you and will fail to see your beauty because you’re covered up and they’re not used to it. So growing up, I just had to work on my people skills and give people a chance to really know me besides the clothing," she said. "Be who you are. It’s easy to feel like you have to blend in, but it takes courage to live your life with conviction and embrace the person that you are."
Aden's was one of 45 contestants in the pageant held over the weekend. The women were competing to represent Minnesota in the 2017 Miss USA pageant. Aden made the top 15, but was cut from the top five.
Still, pageant organizers said they supported Aden's clothing choices. "The organization continues to evolve as women evolve," said Denise Wallace, the director of Miss Minnesota USA and Miss Minnesota Teen USA. "The Miss Universe organization is proud to be the forefront of the diversity of beauty."