Sports Illustrated: the Somali-American model wears the burkini in the magazine


A Somali refugee has made history the first model to embellish the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition by wearing a hijab and a burkini.

The model Halima Aden has been included in the Rookie Spread of the 2019 magazine wearing designer burkets, hijabs and headscarves.

The sports magazine's annual swimsuit edition has been criticized by feminist commentators for decades for its inability to represent women of different ethnic backgrounds and its objectification of women on its pages.

But the last issue, which will arrive at newsstands in early May, shows a significant change in the priorities of the publication.

The design team decided to return the 21-year-old Halima to her hometown of Kenya to shoot on the spot.

Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Halima said he couldn't believe how lucky she was to close the circle.

"I continue to think back to me for six years who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp," he said.

"Growing up, living the American dream, returning to Kenya and going for the SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya … I don't think it's a story that someone could invent".

Stretched out on the beach of Watamu, in a small coastal town north of Mombasa, the splendid model posed for photographer Yu Tsai, wearing clothes including a blue leotard and a turquoise caftan and a burkini covered with geometric blocks of primary colors.

The publisher of MJ Day magazine stated that Halima is "one of the great beauties of our time, not just outside but inside".

"When we met, I was instantly captivated by his intelligence, enthusiasm and authenticity," said Day.

So, who is the extraordinary woman who makes history in the pages of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit?


The Somali-American was born in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where he spent the first seven years of his life.

His family then moved to the United States, where he kept his Kenyan traditions and his Islamic faith.

In late adolescence, he showed interest in competing in beauty contests but refused to compromise his traditional Islamic beliefs, so he entered the competition wearing the hijab and the burkinis.

At 19, he caused a sensation as the first girl to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA beauty contest and reached the semifinals.

Since then, Halima's career has taken off, walking on the catwalks of New York fashion week and enriching the cover of Voguand all over the world, Elle is Paper magazine – the publication that helped Kim Kardashian to "break the internet".


Halima's work has traced a constant path for Muslim women all over the world to do it in the fashion industry.

Calling herself a "burkini babe", Halima said she could never find a safe space for Muslim women in the mainstream media.

"I never felt represented because I could never browse a magazine and see a girl wearing a hijab," he told Sports Illustrated.

According to Halima, his SI bathing suit was a "dream come true".

"I can't believe this is my life," he said.

"I can't believe this is what I have to do for work, I'm so grateful."

In an interview with Good Morning America, Halima told the hosts moments when the team "was crying because it was a great moment".

"Sports Illustrated is proving that a girl wearing a bikini can be right next to a girl wearing a burkini," he said.

"And as women … we can unite each other and become the greatest cheerleaders who celebrate the diversity of women".


The magazine seems to have defended greater diversity in its models in recent years, presenting models of larger size and women of color in its pages and on its covers.

The publication recently presented Canadian model Winnie Harlow who lives with the vitiligo of the skin condition.

Hunter McGrady, a larger model, also made the cut in next month's movie with Halima Aden.

Day said that the idea of ​​beauty was "so vast and subjective" and the magazine was moving towards reflection that most every issue.

"Whether you are the most beautiful and confident in a burkini or bikini, you are worthy," he said.

Continue the conversation @Rhi_lani or send an e-mail to

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