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Do I feel beautiful wearing my hijab? Hmm. Give me a minute to think…
The other day, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed (lol how predictable) when I came upon a picture of Halima Aden, and noticed that she was the new face of American Eagle’s “I Can” campaign. I’ll insert a pic down below.
Yo, she’s so beautiful.
For people who don’t know who Halima Aden is, I’ll give you a quick run-down:
Halima Aden, aka the gorgeous Muslim model who made waves at last February’s New York Fashion Week, is a fashion model who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp. She has been noted for being the first Somali-American to compete and also become a semi-finalist in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, as well as being the first hijabi to be signed by IMG models, the first hijabi to model on Kanye West’s Season 5 Yeezy Collection runway, and the first ever hijabi model to be on the cover of Vogue magazine (let that all sink in, cause I’m lowkey dying from the inside). She was also featured on the cover of Vogue Arabia’s June issue. So, if you haven’t already noticed, Halima is definitely making history, shattering stereotypes, and is soooo badass.
So at this point, you might be thinking, how does Halima Aden have anything to do with the title of this post? How does this relate back to how you feel wearing the hijab, Shaezmina? Well, funny you ask.
Many of us, especially teenage girls, view models to be, in one way or another, the epitome of beauty. I would be lying if I claimed that I never admired a model just because of her physical appearance or looks; their lean figure, chiseled jaw, angel-sculpted face. They define what it is to look beautiful.
But, that’s the issue: for many Muslim women, maybe more-so the ones that visibly cover their body or wear the hijab, it’s difficult to really feel beautiful when society’s standard of beauty is defined by those models who don’t dress or look like us at all. For me personally, I never grew up seeing women who looked like me in magazines or on television or on advertising billboards. What I saw were models like Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss, and Kim Kardashian, all of whom felt comfortable dressing bare in photoshoots. What I grew up watching was the glamorous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, where every girl stripped off her clothing and strutted down the runway, exposing almost every part of her body.
Not seeing women that look like you in the media sends the message that you’re not beautiful, or that you have to change the way you look to be considered beautiful. — Halima Aden
Trust me, I feel that on a SPIRITUAL level. I’ve come across many hijab-wearing girls who have told me that they feel “unpretty” wearing the hijab. For them, getting ready in the morning was like climbing a mountain, and looking in the mirror was confidence-killing. Finding shirts with long-sleeves, pants that weren’t too tight, layering in the summer, not knowing where to find clothes that covered properly– all of these issues were too much, and to say the least, frustrating. So, they began resenting the hijab and the challenges that come with it. It didn’t seem like there is a way to feel beautiful while wearing the hijab.
If any of you guys can relate, believe me when I say your not alone. Although I’ve never questioned my beauty because of the hijab, I’ve had my fair share of battles.
The reason I spoke so much about Halima Aden is because I owe her my gratitude. She has emerged as role model for many girls, including myself. Halima harnesses her confidence through fashion and the power of dressing. Even though something as simple — and beautiful — as a hijab can spark unwanted looks and conversation, Aden considers the accessory, and her modest wardrobe in general, a small part of her wardrobe’s DNA. In an industry that can often feel like one step forward and two steps back, Aden is intimidating in the best way– shattering so many stereotypes by just being herself. That to me is so admirable.
So, this is kinda like a thank you note for Halima.
Thank you for celebrating your identity as a hijabi. Thank you for encouraging me to express my individuality, embrace my differences, and pursue unique paths. Thank you for challenging conventional beauty standards and breaking stereotypes. Thank you for finally allowing me to see a model who looks like me and is a realistic portrayal of my beauty. Thank you for being authentic.
It’s powerful to know you can dress modestly and be beautiful. — Halima Aden
You’re so right Halima, so right.
Thanks for reading.
See you soon,
***BTW, because of Halima Aden, American Eagle is now selling their very own denim hijab (sheds some tears)!!! Snag that!!****