She’s fronted everything from Fenty Beauty to Yeezy campaigns, and even made history as Sports Illustrated‘s first hijabi– and burkini-wearing swimsuit cover model. So when Halima Aden, one of fashion’s first models to proudly embrace the hijab in her work, recently announced her decision to step away from walking in fashion shows citing that it compromised her religious beliefs, fashion and beauty fans around the world let out a collective gasp.
“We need to take back our own power. We get to make the trends in our lives,” Halima Aden posted on her Instagram Stories. “We get to make and break and change and revise however many times needed when it comes to our internal headlines.”
Aden, who remains a trailblazing icon for many, shared on her Instagram Stories that she “can only blame myself for caring more about opportunity than what was actually at stake” and went on to post a series of illustrations of the times she lost her way, including missing prayer times. Before her announcement, she sat down with Vogue Singapore to share a glimpse of the real Halima and the shining beauty within. As she steps away from the catwalk to realign with herself and values, it’s clear Aden will continue to be a source of inspiration and shining light for many.
You have the brightest smile, what’s your secret to truly radiating from within?
Take chances, be gracious, listen to others, have fun, and surround yourself with people who love and believe in you!
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When do you feel most empowered?
I feel most empowered when I am doing work with UNICEF. I was born in one of the world’s largest refugee camps and benefitted from the services UNICEF provides the world’s most vulnerable children. To now be on the giving end as a UNICEF ambassador and advocating for children, sharing my journey and giving refugees hope is really empowering.
What does a day in the life of Halima Aden look like?
9am: I’m a new dog mum so I take my baby out at the start of the day
9:30am: Blast music. Rihanna, Beyoncé, anything to get me moving
10am: Make a shake
12pm: Check emails and work!
What does the hijab mean to you and why is representation so vital?
We all grow up wanting to be women we admire and for me that was my mum and the older women in my family. All of these women wore the hijab. I wanted to imitate my mother’s immaculate beauty and couldn’t wait to start wearing the hijab. Now, it’s become part of me. It symbolises my faith and now so much more. It’s also a fashion accessory and typically what I plan my entire look around.
Representation is so important. It’s hard for one to envision themselves in a space that no one who looks like them or they can relate to has been before. We are seeing the fashion and beauty industries really becoming in-tune with recognising their consumers want to see models who they not only connect with or relate to, but who have a powerful voice to share a grander message.
I wanted to imitate my mother’s immaculate beauty and couldn’t wait to start wearing the hijab. Now, it’s become part of me.
What would you say to your young hijabi-wearing fans in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia?
I would say, “Don’t change yourself, change the game!” If you are not invited to the table, pull up your own seat. If you don’t see yourself represented in any given space, be the one. Don’t wait for someone else to represent you. I would also say, “Thank you for following my journey and supporting me.” I haven’t been to Singapore or Malaysia yet, but was fortunate to meet so many incredible young hijabi women last year in Indonesia. You ladies give me so much hope and inspire me.
Spill your secret to your gorgeous skin
I have an African mama and she has always told me not to put anything on my skin that I can’t put in my mouth. This sometimes is impossible with my travels, but when home I try to do my best. I like to create masks and scrubs with aloe, turmeric, honey, cinnamon, bananas… you name it. I’m trying to also remember to be better about taking my makeup off before bed and to drink tons of water.
How do you care for your scalp and hair?
It’s all about the edge control. Finding the best products to slick down my hair under my scarf is key. I really like Moroccan and Argan oils.
How do you protect your mental health?
I think we have all had to check on our mental health over the past few months given all that’s going on in the world. I try to stay positive by checking in, virtually, with family and friends. I’ve also kept my mental game strong by committing to not treating this time away from everyone, due to the pandemic, as a vacation. I’ve taken virtual acting lessons, swim lessons, and picked up recreational horseback riding. As far as a mantra, it’s something my mom always said, “Hard times never last, but strong people do.”
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Name your favourite, can’t-live-without skincare and beauty products:
Tatcha Luminous Dewy Night Concentrate
“Leaves you waking up feeling hydrated and refreshed.”
Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate
“Such a great serum, you can feel it working.”
Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb
“This is always in my purse!” Halima loves it in Shimmering Rose Nude.
Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation
“It’s a perfect finish.”
Huda Beauty Nude Rich Eye Shadow Palette
“This palette is everything! Goes on so smooth and it’s feminine yet powerful.”
Creme of Nature With Argan Oil
“For hair edge control.”