Lawrentians Travel to Hear Halima Aden Speak at Princeton

News  /  by Shaezmina Khan '19  /  November 11, 2017

Courtesy of Shaezmina Khan '19

This past Wednesday, the Muslim Students Association organized a trip to hear a Critical Conversation with Muslim model Halima Aden at Princeton University. 11 Lawrentians and Coordinator of Intercultural Programs Tran Kim-Senior attended the discussion, which was centered around topics of modesty, womanhood, and the fashion industry.

The event was co-hosted by the Muslim Life Program (MLP) of Princeton University, the Women's Center, and the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding.

Halima Aden is a 20 year-old Muslim model and Somali-American refugee. She was the first contestant to compete in the Miss USA state pageant in a hijab and in swimwear called a burkini.

After receiving international media attention for her clothing choice and her interpretation of her Muslim faith while participating in the pageant, Aden was invited to New York by former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris Carine Roitfeld. Shortly afterwards, Aden became the official cover girl of Carine Roitfeld’s Fashion Book Issue 10 after her first professional photo shoot. Aden was signed by the major modeling agency IMG for worldwide representation. Since then, Aden has modeled in both the New York and Milan Fashion Weeks for designers such as Kanye West and Max Mara. This past summer, she was featured in both VOGUE Arabia and ALLURE, and in campaigns for brands such as Nike and American Eagle.

According to Vogue, “Halima is redefining the idea of modest style on the runway and is defying conventional beauty standards.”

Aden started her conversation at Princeton by describing her childhood experience of living in a Kenyan refugee camp in Kakuma until age six. Her family sought asylum in the U.S. and eventually moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota.

According to Quartz News, Aden remembered the camp, made up of Somali, Sudanese, and Ethiopian refugees, as “a place that showed her the importance of diversity and acceptance.”

Aden then transitioned into speaking about her personal experiences and motivations for entering the world of fashion and modeling.

In an interview with Quartz News, Aden said, “I never dreamed I could have a career in modeling. In fact, I never knew someone wearing a hijab could be a model [...] I hope to show Muslim women and young women of all backgrounds that they are represented in the world of fashion. It’s powerful to know you can dress modestly and be beautiful.”

Sally Thomas ’19 said, “I think everyone was very inspired by Halim Aden’s strong sense of self. Even though she is modeling in the top fashion shows and is modeling for extremely popular fashions designers, she never lets anyone else change who she is—that is something I truly admire about her character.”