The last few months have been filled with firsts for Halima Aden — her first beauty pageant, her first major runway show with Kanye West‘s fall 2017 Yeezy presentation, her first Vogue shoot — and now she’s on the cover of Allure magazine.
“It’s how I interpret my religion,” Aden says of wearing the hijab, “but there are women who are Muslim who choose not to wear the hijab. That’s something people often forget.”
The college student from St. Cloud, Minnesota, moved to the U.S. with her mom at age 7, after growing up in a Kenya refugee camp. Aden says that she decided to wear the hijab because of her mom.
“Every little girl looks up to her mom so much — that’s your first hero,” she says.
But Aden — who first gained fame for wearing an hijab and burkini during the Miss Teen Minnesota pageant in November — says that wearing the hijab also shields her from body shaming.
“Society puts so much pressure on girls to look a certain way,” Aden says. “I have much more to offer than my physical appearance, and a hijab protects me against: ‘You’re too skinny,’ ‘You’re too thick,’ ‘Look at her hips,’ ‘Look at her thigh gap.’ I don’t have to worry about that.”
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And though it’s a tense time for Muslim people in the U.S., Aden says the best way to get through any comments or bullying about wearing the hijab is to refuse to think of it as a problem.
“If you think people are against you and that you’re a target, things will start appearing that way,” she says. “I just go about my day, and I don’t think anyone is out to get me.”