Halima Aden didn’t win the Miss Minnesota USA pageant Sunday night, but she made history nonetheless.
The 19-year-old Somali-American became the first to compete wearing a hijab, and later donned a burkini during the swimsuit portion of the evening.
The Muslim teen, who moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota, after immigrating at age 7, hoped her platform would change minds about Islam.
“For a really long time I thought being different was a negative thing,” Aden told CBS Minnesota. “But as I grew older, I started to realize we were all born to stand out, nobody is born to blend in. How boring would this world be if everyone was the same?”
The ambitious teen — who dreams of being a U.N. ambassador — wasn’t deterred by the lack of a road map for fellow Muslim women in the pageant world.
“You don’t let being the first to do it stop you or get in the way,” Aden told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “When I see that there hasn’t already been somebody, I take that as a challenge for me to give it a try.”
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Aden emphasized that wearing the hijab is not a sign of oppression — it’s an important choice.
“The hijab is a symbol that we wear on our heads, but I want people to know that it is my choice. I’m doing it because I want to,” she said. “I wanted people to see that you could still be really cute and modest at the same time.”