"I was just so desperate back then for any 'representation,'" the model wrote in her Instagram Story on Tuesday

By Nicholas Rice and Alexia Fernández
November 26, 2020 06:52 PM
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Credit: Monica Schipper/Getty

Halima Aden is saying goodbye to runways after reflecting on how she has been portrayed by the fashion industry.

The 23-year-old model shared a series of childhood photos, fashion campaigns and photoshoots she had been involved in that she said had made her feel pressured to compromise her religious beliefs, namely her decision to wear the hijab, for her career. Aden, who is Somali-American, is Muslim, fled Kenya as a child and was raised in Minnesota.

"I wish I never stopped bringing my black hijab to set," she wrote in one photograph of herself wearing a black hijab. "Because the minute I got comfortable... well let's just say I got too carried away."

"But... this isn't even my style?? Never was. Why did I allow them to put jeans on my head when at the time I had only ever worn skirts and long dresses?" she wrote over a photo of her American Eagle campaign.

Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

Aden was the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant and later became the first hijab-wearing model at many runway shows across the globe. She has also appeared on numerous magazine covers and in a slew of style campaigns.

The model made history as the first to wear a hijab and a burkini in Sports Illustrated's 2019 Swimsuit Issue.

Aden cited a 2017 photoshoot for Glamour in which she wore a green wrap under her hijab and feathers around her neck.

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"I went back to my hotel room and just sobbed after this shoot because deep down I knew this wasn't it. But was too scared to speak up," she wrote. "Also very common struggle when you are the FIRST to do something. Like what was that hideous green grass thing on my head?"

American Eagle and Glamour did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Aden said it was the coronavirus pandemic that allowed her time to reflect on the career choices she was making, writing, "As I've said many times being a minority inside of a minority inside of a minority is never easy."

Credit: Halima Aden Instagram Stories Nov 24, 2020 https://www.instagram.com/halima/?hl=en
Credit: JP Yim/Getty

"Being a "Hijabi" is truly a journey with lots of highs & lows," she continued. "With that said my hooyo macaan (mother) has been pleading with me for years to open my eyes. Thanks to Covid & the break away from the industry I have finally realized where I went wrong in my personal hijab journey."

"My mom asked me to quit modeling a LONG time ago," Aden wrote in a post honoring her mother, Rukia Ahmed Aden. "I wish I wasn't so defensive. Sis was literally the only person who had the purest intentions for me. The advice she gave me was "DEEN over Dunya." And her stance has never once changed."

The Islamic slogan is a belief among Muslims that faith and religion are more important than anything gained in a mortal life on Earth.

Credit: Halima Aden Instagram Stories Nov 24, 2020 https://www.instagram.com/halima/?hl=en
Credit: Halima Aden Instagram Stories Nov 24, 2020 https://www.instagram.com/halima/?hl=en

Aden said she was driven toward pursuing more jobs in the industry because she "was just so desperate back then for any 'representation,' that I lost touch with who I was."

The model took her mother's advice, writing, "My mom said "go correct it, you were good and blessed before fashion. THEY came to YOU. What are you scared of? Correct the mistake you made Publicly.. PUBLICALLY.""

She continued, "I never felt more free & relieved. God damn Somali moms are so stubborn like why she wait all these years to say that! But also thank you Covid because being home with her has put back so much into perspective. I'm not rushing back to FASHION."

Aden did credit one fashion campaign that made her feel accepted.

Credit: Halima Aden Instagram Stories Nov 24, 2020 https://www.instagram.com/halima/?hl=en
Credit: Halima Aden Instagram Stories Nov 24, 2020 https://www.instagram.com/halima/?hl=en

"This was my 1st ever fashion campaign & it was thanks to @badgalriri," she wrote of Rihanna alongside a photograph of her posting for Fenty. "Sis let me wear the HIJAB I brought to set. This is the girl I'm returning to. The real HALIMA."

The model shared photos of what she wanted her future opportunities in fashion to look like, sharing a photo of herself in a yellow hijab, writing, "If my hijab can't be this visible – I'm not showing up. Periodt."

In another photo of herself playing with a child, Aden wrote, "And never skipping my prayer time! Fashion can wait. My DEEN can not."

Following her series of reflective posts, Aden's announcement was met with an array of support from celebrities, including Naomi Campbell and Gigi Hadid.

"Proud of you for staying true to your integrity," Campbell, 50, wrote under a post on Aden's Instagram, per CNN. "You are true light and joy since knowing you. And I hope our paths will cross in another capacity, keep rising and shining."

Hadid, 25, similarly praised Aden and her decision, writing on her respective Instagram Story, "It is so important, as a hijabi or not, to self reflect and get back on track with what feels genuine to us - It's the only way to feel truly fulfilled."