Beauty pageants are filled with stereotypes (big hair, teeny bikinis). But thankfully, the pageant world is finally starting to embrace beauty in less predicable, more inclusive forms. Just take a look at 19-year-old Halima Aden, who made history at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant by slaying the swimsuit competition...in a burkini (a swimsuit that covers the body and reflects Islamic traditions).
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
Traditionally, the swimsuit portion of a beauty pageant like Miss Minnesota USA (where the winner goes on to compete for the title of Miss USA) is pretty important. It counts for a third of contestants' overall scores and places a lot of focus on the bikini bod. As a practicing Muslim, Aden (who wore her hijab throughout the competition) is the first woman to wear a burkini during the semi-final swimsuit round, a bold move in a world where skimpy (and often controversial) bikinis reign supreme.
Aden is in good company when it comes to Muslim women challenging the stereotypes associated with traditional dress. This year in Rio, we cheered for badass fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad as the first woman to rep Team U.S.A. in a hijab (check out her thoughts on the future of Muslim women in sports here). And Shirin Gerami became the first woman from Iran to finish an Ironman—in full Islamic dress no less.
Even though Aden didn't make it to the finals, she still scored a major win when it comes to making history and hopefully inspiring young girls to follow their dreams too. "For a really long time I thought being different was a negative thing," she said in an interview with CBS. "As I grew older, I started to realize we are all born to stand out, nobody is born to blend in. How boring would this world be if everyone was the same?" We couldn't agree more.