Beauty pageants have never been at the forefront of feminism or progress, criticized repeatedly for their exploitation of women and perpetuation of outdated beauty standards. This year, however, has been different. First, there was Erin O’Flaherty, the first openly gay Miss America contestant, and now, Halima Aden. The 19-year-old Somali-American is the first person to compete for the Miss Minnesota USA title wearing a hijab and burkini.
— Leila Navidi (@LeilaNavidi) November 27, 2016
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
— Ellery McCardle (@ElleryTV) November 28, 2016
The St. Cloud resident, who moved to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Kenya, competed against 45 other women, making it to the top 15, before being eliminated. Even though she didn’t win, Aden’s participation is a positive step for the future of pageants, and St. Cloud, which has become a frequent so epicenter for islamphobia.
“This pageant is so much more than just beauty,” she said. “Their whole message is being confidently beautiful, so I didn’t think that I should allow my hijab to get into the way of me participating. […] Just because I’ve never seen a woman wearing a burkini in a pageant,” she added, “it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to be the first.”