Halima Aden may not yet be a household name. But after New York Fashion Week’s most controversial designer, Kanye West, shines a spotlight on Aden this evening, her modelling career is set to take of exponentially.
19 year-old Aden, who is Somali-American and was born in a Kenyan refugee camp, has just been signed by IMG and is expected to become a breakout star for the modelling agency, which also represents 12 year-old British actress Millie Bobby Brown, as well as models like Alek Wek and Lauren Hutton.
Kanye West’s Yeezy presentation this evening will be the Minnesota-based teenager’s first turn on the catwalk, but she first made the headlines in November 2016 when she competed in the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant. Wearing a hijab throughout and a burkini during the swimsuit portion of the competition (rather than the usual prescription of tiny bikinis and evening dresses) Aden stood out as a young woman who was committed to her beliefs and willing to challenge industry ideals. “I wanted to spread a positive message about beauty and diversity,” she told Business of Fashion, “and to show other young Muslim women that there is room for them.”
The model’s Instagram page (currently she has 10,000 followers, but expect that number to swell overnight) reveals her to be much like any other 19-year-old – experimenting with her style, taking selfies, and posting pictures and quotes of people that she admires. She shares pictures of Michelle Obama and Martin Luther King, alongside glimpses of upcoming shoots that she’s working on.
IMG has signed Muslim models before, but it’s Aden’s devotion to wearing the hijab and to modest dressing that sets her apart.
Esteemed fashion director and former French Vogue editor-in-chief, Carine Roitfeld, has taken Aden under her wing and was in fact responsible for bringing the model to Kanye West’s attention. Roitfeld has also worked with photographer Mario Sorrenti to photograph Aden for the March issue of her CR Fashion Book, with Aden wearing outfits by Loewe.
“Halima is breaking boundaries of beauty and perception by being herself,” says Roitfeld of the new star. “I find this incredibly inspiring, and I know she will be an icon.”