Halima Aden is the world’s first hijab-wearing international runway model. She spoke with TFK Kid Reporter Maria Suarez about being a fashion model, a role model, and an ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
1. Your story spread quickly when you wore a hijab in the 2016 Miss Minnesota U.S.A. pageant. What is a hijab?
In Arabic, the word
2. You’re often described as a “hijabi model.” Is that how you describe yourself?
I definitely describe myself as a hijab-wearing model. But I’m not just a label. I’m a friend. I’m a daughter. There are many characteristics I use to define myself. It’s nice to own your identity. But I’m more than just a girl who wears a hijab.
3. In 2016, you were a pageant contestant. Now you’re a famous model. What changes have you seen in the modeling industry in that time?
I was the first model to wear a hijab, but there are now eight or more other hijab-wearing models. It shows that everybody’s ready for change.
4. Why do we need to see models who look like us?
When I was young, girls who wore the hijab didn’t see someone who looked like them in magazines. Everyone deserves to see someone they can relate to. It’s motivating. You see a bit of yourself in them.
5. You recently visited the refugee camp in Kenya where you were born. What was that like?
It was extremely emotional. On one hand, I got to go back to the camp I was born in. That came with a whole whirlwind of emotions. But I also gave the first-ever TEDx Talk in a refugee camp . That was very exciting. I felt grateful.
6. What do you do as an ambassador for UNICEF?
My goal is to spread the word by sharing my relationship with UNICEF. I was a child like the ones they are trying to help.
7. How do you balance your career as a fashion model with your work as a UNICEF ambassador?
UNICEF is so personal to me. Even if I didn’t get into modeling, whatever else I did would have included that. Fashion is amazing. But UNICEF’s work is a social responsibility I can’t ignore.
8. What does the future hold for you?
To write a book, and to continue working with UNICEF. For sure, I will go back to the camp.