This teen made history by competing at a beauty pageant in her traditional dress and modest swimwear.
Since Donald Trump’s election, the USA has seen a surge in Islamophobia.
A number of America’s Muslims have voiced their fears about being seen wearing Islamic dress in public, as they believe it could make them a target for hate crimes.
Halima Aden starts off Miss Minnesota USA’s swimsuit segment to big cheers from the crowd. Announcer: “She’s making history tonight.” pic.twitter.com/OUvbHv6xct
— Liz Sawyer (@ByLizSawyer) November 27, 2016
However if there’s one woman it’s not stopping, it’s 19-year-old Somali-America Halima Aden.
Aden is competed for the title of Miss Minnesota USA over the weekend, and did so in traditional dress.
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Aden was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and moved to Minnesota when she was just six years old.
Growing up, she noticed that Muslim women were rarely portrayed positively in the American media.
“As long as I could remember, the media portrays Muslim women as oppressed and in a very negative light,” she told Huffington Post. “But you never see the beauty and the good things that come from Muslim women.”
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Speaking about the Miss Minnesota USA pageant and her participation, Aden says: “I could have sat there and I could have waited for a long time to see somebody who was dressed like me or looks like me, but I noticed that’s just not happening.”
Halima Aden, who made semifinals tonight, does post-pageant interviews while in her evening gown. pic.twitter.com/cuNHvjxVQa
— Liz Sawyer (@ByLizSawyer) November 28, 2016
Aden made sure that her participation in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant wouldn’t compromise any of her values when it came to dress.
For the swimwear segment, Aden made sure she was able to compete in a burkini.
“I’m going in as me, my authentic self. I’m not going to dress down or change myself.
“Not seeing women that look like you in media in general and especially in beauty competition sends the message that you’re not beautiful or you have to change the way you look to be considered beautiful – and that’s not true.”
While Aden didn’t end up winning the pageant, she managed to make it all the way to the semi finals – quashing numerous stereotypes about Muslim women along the way.
“The people that are doing bad things, they don’t represent an entire group,” Aden told ABC News. “I feel like I’m here to bust those misconceptions and stereotypes of Muslim women.
“I didn’t think that I should allow my hijab to get in the way of me participating. This is a great platform to show the world who I am… just because I’ve never seen a woman wearing a burkini [in a pageant] it doesn’t mean I don’t have to be the first.”