Halima Aden is making history as the first model to pose for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit wearing a hijab and a burkini — and she couldn’t be prouder.
“Being featured in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue will have such a great impact on women and young girls who have never seen someone who looks like them represented in the public eye,” the Somali-American model told Fox News in a written statement. “SI Swimsuit has been at the forefront of changing the narrative and conversation on social issues and preconceived notions. I’m hoping this specific feature will open doors up for my Somali community, Muslim community, refugee community and any other community that can relate to being different.”
“This feature is proving that a fully covered hijab wearing model can confidently stand alongside a beautiful woman in a revealing bikini and together they can celebrate one another, cheer each other on, and champion each other’s successes,” Aden continued. “It’s also putting the burkini on the map which is imperative for young Muslim girls. They need to know that there is a modest swimsuit option available to them so they can join the swim team, participate in swim class at school, and go with their friends to the beach. Swimming is a life skill that everyone needs to know how to do. Now, Muslim girls should feel confident taking that step and doing so comfortably while wearing a burkini.”
Born in Kenya at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, Aden moved to the United States at age 7. However, Sports Illustrated brought her back to her home country for her rookie spread on Watamu Beach with photographer Yu Tsai.
“I keep thinking [back] to 6-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” Aden said in the announcement from Sports Illustrated revealed Monday. “So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya — I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.”
Aden previously made history at 19 years old by competing in the Miss Minnesota U.S.A. pageant as the first person to ever wear a hijab and burkini during the show. She made it to the semi-finals of the competition.
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shared the top model previously landed the cover of British Vogue, Allure and walked on the New York Fashion Week runway.
“We believe beauty knows no boundaries,” said SI Swimsuit editor MJ Day. “I admire Halima, and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador. She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. When we met, I was instantaneously taken by her intelligence, enthusiasm and authenticity.”
Day continued: “We both believe the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective. We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY.”
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue hits newsstands May 8.
Fox News’ Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report.