After she strolled into a makeup and hair room for our interview Friday, giggling in a belted, striped Olivia Von Halle dress and a Halima Aden x Mondanisa hijab (she was beaming as she told us it was from her own collection), Aden told us the response was “massive” in a way she hadn’t expected after she modeled in a burkini for Sports Illustrated.
“Women were reaching out to me who are not even Muslim or don’t even wear a hijab, and were like ‘sis, I get sun burned really bad and I need this full coverage of burkini. Where can I get it?,’” Aden said as flashed her megawatt smile. “I think that’s been like 50 percent of my messages is like non Hijabis and non Muslims who are just like ‘I need something besides a two piece or a one piece and I want to wear it to the beach or outside or whatever.’”
“I also am getting so many messages from Muslim women and girls who never thought such an iconic magazine like Sports Illustrated would have somebody who wears a hijab and burkini,” she continued. “So, it just feels so surreal all around. I’m just so grateful to MJ Day [Editor of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue], because I understand she took a big risk. It was the first time that that’s been done and I’m so honored and grateful that she allowed me to participate. My Instagram following jumped like 40,000, which was nice,” Aden added with a laugh.
The 21-year-old effervescent beauty, who is wise beyond her years, has the ability to put anyone at ease and has no problems being open about her experiences as a hijab-wearing muslim model, and also what she feels like it has meant for modest fashion.
As far as what she wears that makes her feel sexy, Aden makes sure not to go too sexy, and has a stylist that helps her come up with modest looks that slay. “I’m working with a new stylist and I was like, ‘girl, don’t make me look too sexy cause I’m going to be out here looking out of control! Halima’s out here in these streets,” she said with a laugh.
“I think it’s good that she humbles me and puts me in more modest stuff. But here’s the problem…I think for a lot of Muslim girls, especially my generation, we differ from our parents. Like my mom’s generation,” she went on.
“Yes, they’re Muslim, they wear the hijab, they’re covered,” Aden said. “But then they also didn’t have this little thing called Instagram. They didn’t have social media. They didn’t have all these pressures that young women today have where you’re constantly looking to social media and other people and for campaigns and magazines to validate how you see yourself, especially as a young girl.”
“So, for me it was important that I’m representing a different type of beauty,” she continued. “It took me a long time to even say that, you know, like I feel beautiful. I say feel not look because it really needs to come from the inside. That sounds kind of cliche, but it’s true. You’ve got to radiate and feel good about yourself and who you are. Then when you shine on the inside it just radiates through.”
“I think it’s important that young girls are saying it’s okay if I’m covered,” she continued. “I don’t have to show it all in order to be beautiful. And then there’s the women who feel beautiful and are like, I feel good about my body. I want to rock the one piece, two piece, good for you and you should have that opportunity. Right?”
“My generation, we’re kind of crazy. We still want to look modest, but we still want to be young. I’m 21 for example, and I don’t want to look like my mom. I want to look like Halima. I want to wear stuff that resonates with who I am, my personality. I want to wear color, I want to wear a belt, I want to wear a corset.”
Aden said embracing modest fashion has not made her feel like she’s missing out on any trends (take the cute ensemble she paired with a pair of sheer leggings the day of our interview, for example). In fact, she skips them, and shops for her summer clothes during the winter and her winter clothes during the summer to save money.
“[Trends] are recycled,” she said. “They’ll come back around, and my mom always tells me ‘girl. That was my grandmother’s time.’ Even back then in Somalia, they had the poofy Afro, they had the poofy curls, and wide legged jeans, high-waisted with a white blouse. So, I’m just like I’m going to save my coins because it’s gonna get recycled. That’s how I feel about trends.”
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love a statement-making fashion moment, though. As the budding model mogul mentioned, she recently started working with a stylist, which has been helpful during hot summer months when she needs to find clothes that are fashionable, but also keep her covered and don’t leave her drenched in sweat.
“It’s so hard to find clothes that are covered during the summertime because for example, I’ll find something really cute like this dress, right? But it’s ripped in the middle and my leg needs to be put away. So, I’m learning to pair leggings over those kind of outfits. But it’s just hard because the majority of women are not like I want to walk into a store and have something that’s fully covered during summertime. It’s just not comfortable in a lot of stores.”
While Aden hasn’t ventured into designing a full modest fashion collection just yet (something tells us she will), she recently launched her first hijab and turbans collection, Halima Aden x Mondanisa, and said she doesn’t want to focus “on being somebody who’s just runway.”
“How about having my own runway? How about designing? How about like being an entrepreneur?,” she continued. “Because I think that side of fashion, it’s still mostly dominated by men and I want to encourage girls, don’t just look and dream it as far as to be a model and just to be in a magazine or just to be on a runway, but really think about I want to own that. I want to own that publication. I want to have that brand.”
“I don’t want to get too caught up in this world and not plan, not think smart because you can’t model for the rest of your life,” she continued. “God will humble you. It comes with an expiration date.”