Somali-American model Halima Aden is back again posing for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, marking the second time a model has worn a burkini for the magazine.
The 22-year-old broke down barriers last year when she became the first-ever model to be shot in the modest swimwear for the sexy annual issue — and her presence was such a hit that editor MJ Day brought her back once again, upgrading her from 2019’s rookie status.
‘So proud to be back for my 2nd year,’ Halima wrote on Instagram today, as the magazine officially goes on sale. ‘Shooting with [photographer Kate Powers] was a dream. Thank you @mj_day & shoutout to all my Si Sisters.’
In a series of highly-anticipated photos released today, Halima models a series of swimsuits — though, of course, hers are much more modest than the barely-there string numbers most of her fellow models are wearing.
In several shots, she dons what appears to be a custom pink Tommy Hilfiger burkini featuring a red, white, and blue belt, which she’s paired with a scarf covering her hair.
She also wore a a black and tan mock-neck burkini by Australian luxury swimwear brand Myra Swim and a colorful head wrap in previously-released shot by the issue.
‘For me, this is quite personal,’ said Halima, who made history when she competed in the Minnesota Miss USA competition in 2016 and was the first contestant to walk out in a burkini during the swimsuit portion.
‘Wearing a burkini in my state’s Miss USA pageant launched my career at the end of 2016, so to be able to wear a burkini again on the iconic pages of Sports Illustrated Swim has been a full circle moment,’ she went on.
‘It means that I can wear a fully covered modest swimsuit, next to a woman wearing a two piece bikini and we can both be celebrated and show young girls and women around the world that you can just be you and that’s good enough.
She added: ‘There is no need to conform; everyone is accepted. So let’s all remember, “Don’t change yourself, change the game!”
‘The SI brand continues to be at to forefront of inclusion and showcasing the diversity of beauty and is committed to not letting that be a trend.’
Halima’s photoshoot for the issue took place at Sublime Samana Hotel & Residences earlier in the year, and she and the official SI Swim account teased some behind-the scenes shots and videos at the time.
Other stills include a glamorous fringe burkini and a teal-colored one with a skirt and attached hood.
Halima made her debut in the magazine to much fanfare last year, posing for a stunning shot by photographer Yu Tsai at Watamu Beach, in which she rocked a voluminous black number with a colorful chevron seed beed collar and detailing on the sleeves.
Halima, who is Somali-born and lived at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya before moving to the United States at the age of seven, said she couldn’t help but reflect on her amazing journey during her shoot.
‘I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,’ she told Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.
‘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.’
Halima is no stranger to breaking boundaries. In fact, she has been doing it since she was a teen.
‘In high school, I was my town’s first Muslim homecoming queen,’ she recalled. ‘I think that was my first glimpse of wow, I put myself out there. I made friends with my peers. They liked me enough to nominate me, and I want to continue that in college.
‘So, that’s exactly what I did. I became my college’s first Muslim Somali student senator, and after that, I remember thinking, “What next?” And that’s when I came across the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant.’
A year after the pageant, she became the first hijab-wearing model to sign with a major modeling agency. She signed with IMG in February 2017, and that same month she made her runway debut in Kanye West’s Yeezy show.
She has gone on to model for the likes of Marc Jacobs, Alberta Ferreti, Max Mara, Yeezy, The Blonds, Fenty, and Tommy Hilfiger, and has covered Vogue Arabia, CR Fashion Book, Allure, and British Vogue in a hijab.
Last month, she was named Vogue Arabia’s new Diversity Editor-at-Large in an effort to ‘further the magazine’s commitment to showcasing diversity, racial inclusivity, and topics related to human rights.’
‘Now, more than ever, using my voice and personal experiences to educate others is at the forefront of my agenda,’ Halima said.
‘I’ll be working together with the team on the promotion of topics such as human rights, race and diversity, and acceptance. I’m looking forward to teaming up with [Manuel Arnaut], the magazine’s editor, to bring you content that is meaningful and relevant, based on my own personal experience.’
Speaking to Vogue Arabia , she added: ‘I commend Manuel on his work over the past few years in showcasing a wide range of models from all different backgrounds.
‘I am most grateful that he is bringing me on, once again highlighting the value that Vogue Arabia continues to place on awareness, especially when it comes to topics that most affect those who are not necessarily represented within their current staff.