This 19-year old Somalian-American teenager made history last night by becoming the first contestant to compete in a hijab at the Miss USA competition. Halima Aden wore the traditional Muslim headpiece and a burkini for the swimsuit round, shattering most of the prevalent stereotypes surrounding Muslims and Islam.
With the current atmosphere of unrest among minority communities in the US, this seems to be the right time to challenge negative stereotypes surrounding women, especially those belonging to the Islamic faith. Halima's appearance not only represents America's multi-cultural population — at a time when the Trump administration is widely viewed as being antagonistic to non-white Americans — but also challenges standards of beauty at such pageants. On this, the Miss USA director, Denise Wallace, claimed that it was about time the competition evolved and that they were proud to be at the forefront of this representation of diversity.
Even though she didn't go beyond the top 15, Halima's presence has started a conversation that is bigger than the competition. She had wanted to appear as herself, in her hijab and covered-up burkini, to compete for a greater purpose. "I feel like I'm here to bust those misconceptions and stereotypes of Muslim women," she told ABC7, adding, "A lot of girls were very supportive of what I'm doing, and that just makes it all worth it and my advice to them is just be confident in your own skin, know that an extra layer of clothing does not define your beauty, because beauty is within."