Tristan Johnson, Archivist
Supermodel Halima Aden breaks boundaries as the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Not unfamiliar with breaking boundaries, she also was the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini in Miss Minnesota USA, in which she placed in the semi-finals.
In regard to the 2016 Miss Minnesota USA pageant, she announced, “I’m covered up, but I’m still getting these comments that say I shouldn’t be. But the girls who wear the bikinis, they’re being told they’re too revealing! Enough. It’s their body, their choice.” After competing in Miss Minnesota USA, she was signed to IMG Models in 2016.
The Somali-American model is the first Muslim model to appear in the magazine wearing a burkini and a hijab. It is still unclear as to whether or not she is the first Muslim woman in the magazine, since it has been published for decades.
Aden returned to her home country of Kenya for the shoot. She was born at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, and lived there until she was 7 before heading for the U.S. Aden stated during the emotional shoot that “Sports Illustrated is proving that a girl that’s wearing a bikini can be right alongside a girl that’s wearing a burkini, and as a women we can come alongside each other and be each other’s biggest cheerleaders celebrating the diversity of women.”
“Growing up in the states,” Aden continued, “I never really felt represented, because I never could flip through a magazine and see a girl who was wearing a hijab.”
Editors for the magazine announced that “at Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, we strive to continue to spread the message that whether you are wearing a one-piece, a two-piece or a burkini, you are the pilot of your own beauty.”
Sports Illustrated is attempting to break the mold that is expected when one picks up their magazine, but one should not forget about their problematic past. The swimsuit issue accounts for 10 percent of Sports Illustrated’s overall revenue. This may not sound like much, but when you realize 1 out of 10 readers are just viewing the magazine to see women partially clad in swimsuits, in can be a little alarming.
People that have graced the covers of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue include athletes Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. These women, by the typical audience member of Sports Illustrated, were judged by the swimsuits that they were wearing and not their athletic talents.
But are times changing in the media? Hope for change arrived as the Miss America pageantry system announced its swimsuit competition would be no more, but then the Victoria’s Secret fashion show aired soon after.
With the inclusion of Halima Aden in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, one boundary is broken in the contradicting portrayal of women in the media. In a magazine that is the epitome for objectifying women, Aden proves that women can do more than just wearing scantily clad clothing. Instead of changing herself, she has truly changed the game.