The Somali-American model's photoshoot on the beach is beyond stunning.

By Allie Strickler
Getty Images/Stefanie Keenan

The annual debut of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue is always a pretty big deal, but this year's edition is shaping up to be historic. Somali-American model Halima Aden will be the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini in a spread for the magazine. (Related: Mattel Modeled the First Hijab-Wearing Barbie After Ibtihaj Muhammad)

If Aden looks familiar, you might recognize her from a few different places. She's walked runways in fashion week, appeared on the cover of British Vogue, and been featured in several high-profile campaigns. Her first boundary-breaking moment in the fashion industry was during the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, where she was the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini (a full-body bathing suit worn by some observant Muslim women) in the competition. After placing as a semi-finalist in the pageant, she quickly landed a contract with IMG Models. Now, the 21-year-old is joining the SI Swimsuit family.

"Don’t change yourself .. Change the GAME!! Ladies anything is possible!!!" Aden wrote in an Instagram caption announcing the news. "Being in Sports Illustrated is so much bigger than me. It’s sending a message to my community and the world that women of all different backgrounds, looks, upbringings... can stand together and be celebrated." (Related: Victoria's Secret Added a Slightly More Size-Inclusive Angel to Their Roster)

Aden's SI Swimsuit spread was made even more special by the location of her photoshoot: Watamu Beach in Kenya, the country where the model was born.

"I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp," Halima told Sports Illustrated during her shoot. "So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya–I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up."

Aden bonded with SI Swimsuit's issue director, MJ Day, over their shared perspective on expanding the traditional definition of beauty and representing more diverse women in the fashion industry. (Related: Celebs Are Calling Out the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show for Its Lack of Diversity)

"We both believe the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective. We both know that women are so often perceived to be one way or one thing based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY," said Day.

SI Swimsuit is one of many publications making intentional strides toward inclusivity within their pages. Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg was recently on the cover of Teen Vogue (interviewed by Janelle Monáe for her cover story, to boot). Allure's April 2017 issue featured three women of color on the cover—models Dilone, Imaan Hammam, and Aamito Lagum—with unretouched stretch marks. More recently, three women wearing hijabs—models Ikram Abdi Omar, Amina Adan, and none other than Halima Aden—appeared on the cover of Vogue Arabia's April 2019 issue. Melissa McCarthy graced the cover of InStyle back in February.

Shout out to all the brands, influencers, magazines and digital platforms for giving these folks the platform they deserve no matter what. 



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