Model Halima Aden is not your average 19-year-old runway regular. The Kenyan-born Somali-American teen is also Allure‘s July cover girl, marking a major moment in the history of that publication and the depictions of women of Muslim backgrounds in mainstream U.S. media. That’s because in her cover image and throughout the spread, Aden wears a hijab — a traditional Muslim head covering — and her modeling career is only picking up steam.
“I have much more to offer than my physical appearance, and a hijab protects me against ‘You’re too skinny,’ ‘You’re too thick,’ ‘Look at her hips,’ ‘Look at her thigh gap,’” she explained to writer Molly Young in the interview. “I don’t have to worry about that.”
Instead, Aden has been pursuing her high fashion profession with aplomb, walking in Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5 show in February and again in Max Mara’s and Alberta Ferretti’s recent shows. She’s no stranger to breaking barriers: she first garnered national attention by wearing a burkini at the Miss Minnesota USA beauty contest, where she was competing for a college scholarship.
But this magazine cover — and her frank, honest attitude about her choices regarding self-presentation — should help her find an even more widespread audience.