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Halima Aden calls out fashion industry for compromising representations of her hijab

Myles Kalus Anak Jihem | Wikimedia Commons

Muslim fashion model Halima Aden announced she would be quitting runway modeling in a series of Instagram stories posted on Nov. 24 because she is not willing to continue compromising her religious beliefs for career opportunities.

Aden stated she used the last few months during lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic to have much needed and overdue self-reflections on her career so far. She acknowledged in her Instagram stories, which are now saved on her Instagram page, that many of the campaigns she’s done were disrespectful to women who wear hijabs.

However, Aden doesn’t mind doing shoots that fully align with her religious beliefs, Nylon reported. “Being a ‘Hijab’ is truly a journey with lots of highs and lows,” Aden said.

Following Aden’s posts, many celebrities like Rihanna, Naomi Campbell and Gigi Hadid showed their support in comments.

“It is so important, as a hijabi or not, to self-reflect and get back on track with what feels genuine to us — it’s the only way to feel truly fulfilled,” Hadid said when she reposted Aden’s story on her own Instagram.

Aden has previously done campaigns and photoshoots for brands like Allure, Fenty Beauty, Glamour and American Eagle. She now regrets many of these shoots because she admitted that there was a lack of Muslim women stylists that would know how to appropriately work with hijabs, indicating that this as an industry wide problem.

She also mentioned that when she was on the cover of Vogue Arabia, she saw it as a mockery of the hijab. It was the “excitement of being labeled a trailblazer” that caused Aden to forget her beliefs, CNN said.

Some of the shoots she regrets are an American Eagle campaign and the cover of Vogue Arabia where her hijab was replaced with other fabrics like a pair of jeans. She said that although she broke boundaries in her modeling career, she was still scared to speak up because of how silenced the issues she was facing were in the fashion industry.

At the age of 23, Aden has accomplished a lot. She was the first model to wear a hijab and burkini in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the first contestant to wear a hijab and burkini at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant and the first hijab-wearing woman on the cover of British Vogue.

Even though Aden called out the brands and magazines she has worked for, she made it equally apparent that she holds herself accountable for losing sight of her hijab journey. “I can only blame myself for caring more about the opportunity than what was actually at stake,” she stated.

She stated she was “so desperate back then for any ‘representation’ that she lost touch with who she was,” according to her Instagram stories.

Aden said she hopes to return to “The real HALIMA,” that is similar to the girl she was in the Fenty Beauty photoshoot where she brought her own hijab with her and embraced wearing it the way she’s done for years.

Aden’s mom was a huge influence in getting her to be open and honest about who she is. She recalled having her mom encourage her to walk away or speak up about what she’s been dealing with.

Several fans have offered support as well. “Halima Aden’s IG story honouring her hijab journey is so beautiful, she’s unapologetically talking about choosing to be more serious about her hijab to a huge audience, including powerful people who’ve shaped her career,” one Twitter user wrote,

Fans have also expressed support because of Aden’s honesty about the struggles she’s faced because she wears a hijab, which is vital considering this is a relatable issue for many women. The brands that Aden has referenced doing work for or that she has called out through her stories have yet to comment.

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