Halima Aden is simultaneously shutting down stereotypes and making history.
Aden, who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to the United States when she was six, became the first fully-covered Somali-American woman to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. Donning a burkini during Sunday's semi-final swimsuit round and a hijab throughout the entirety of the competition, the 19-year-old is hoping her participation helps to diversify the pageant world and provide a positive representation of Muslim women.
"As long as I could remember, the media portrays Muslim women as oppressed and in a very negative light," Aden told the Huffington Post. "But you never see the beauty and the good things that come from Muslim women."
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
Pageants have long been criticized for their lack of representation in their portrayal of beauty. However, even though she didn't win, we have a feeling that Aden's involvement in Miss Minnesota USA has inspired women who might not always fit the stereotypical (and problematic) mold that is continued to be represented in media — all without compromising any of her values.
"Not seeing women that look like you in media in general and especially in beauty competitions sense the message that you're not beautiful or you have to change the way you look to be considered beautiful," Aden told the Huffington Post. "And that's not true."