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Somali-American Model Halima Aden Introduces the Powerful Women in Her Team

Photo: Carter Smith

An outspoken champion for women, Halima Aden surrounds herself with a dedicated team who work hard to make sure she is set up to inspire, motivate, and succeed – all while being camera-ready.

“The best part about my team is that they come from such different backgrounds. They are boss women who know how to get things done. I learn from them and they are constantly taking the time to learn what it means to be a Muslim, Black, Somali-American refugee. It’s an open dialogue and we collectively agree that we, as women, need to support each other and be one another’s biggest cheerleaders. I’m proud to introduce my team of powerful women.”

Denise Wallace Heitkamp
Personal Manager

Denise Wallace. Photo: Supplied

HA says: “Denise is a mix between my best friend and my second mom. She is knowledgeable, focused, and
business savvy. I couldn’t do this – and wouldn’t want to – without her guidance and hard work. There’s no one in the world that understands me as well as Denise does, which is my greatest professional asset.”

DWH says: “I met Halima when she was preparing for the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. As the producer, I spoke to her beforehand when she called to ask if she could wear her hijab and burkini. I answered, yes, that would be just fine. The next thing we knew her career was launched. We often reflect on how that conversation was such a defining moment. It was when Halima not only took the first step towards her now successful career, but, more importantly, it was the start of international awareness of modest wear and the beauty of the hijab.”

BEING INCLUSIVE IS… “Recognizing your unconscious bias and being humbled by it, understanding the advantages you are born with, and believing that all people are created equal, but not the same.”

Libby Watkins

Libby Watkins. Photo: Supplied.

HA says: “When I was competing at Miss Minnesota USA, Libby was with me as we knocked out interviews while still getting to rehearsals. Seeing how media savvy she was, I knew I had found the perfect publicist. She’s my first call before any interview.”

LW says: “Halima has the It factor. When she walks into a room, people are drawn to her welcoming spirit and beauty. Then they stick around for her passion, engaging persona, and well thought out desire to make a difference. I traveled with her on her first trip to New York City. We were looking at the billboards in Times Square and I said, ‘Someday soon you will be up there.’ Not even six months later, we stood in the same spot, looking up at a huge billboard of Halima. I don’t know who was crying more, her or me.”

You may not change the way others think but by listening you may just start to understand why they think the way they do.”

Christine Fortune
UK agent, talent director at IMG Models London

Christine Fortune. Photo: Supplied.

HA says: “Christine can get the job done and always has her talents’ best interest at heart. I respect her so much and enjoy her outside of the modeling industry too. She is someone who makes it easy to want to be her friend” CF says: “Halima has a strength of personality and integrity that I have never before encountered. Her rise in the fashion industry has shown the world that everything is possible, and that one must never be afraid of fighting to be the first.”

CHANGE STARTS WITH… “Realizing that there are things in this world that need to change. Ignorance is compliance.”

Also Read: Halima Aden on Dealing with Racially Charged Microaggressions as a Black Hijabi Model

Lisa Di Ruocco
US agent, vice president at IMG Models

Lisa Di Ruocco. Photo: Supplied.

HA says: “Upon signing with IMG Models, I was blessed to be welcomed by Lisa, who sat down with me for four hours as we discussed what a hijab-wearing model looked like and how we would navigate the industry together. She took the time to learn about me in order to efficiently have clients prepared by the time I arrived to set. I am so grateful IMG took a chance on the unknown by bringing me on board.”

LDR says: “The first time I met Halima was for a meeting that went on for hours! Neither of us realized how fast the time went by. Halima is someone who pulls you in; she captivates people and leaves you wanting more.”

WE CAN CELEBRATE DIFFERENCES BY… “Highlighting the accomplishments, cultures, and differences of people from all walks of life.”


Nai’vasha. Photo: Supplied.

HA says: “When I first met Nai’vasha on set, I knew our friendship and working relationship would surpass that one day’s work. She had taken the time to learn how to tie a beautiful headscarf. She always has a vision and is gifted and skilled in her craft.”

NJ says: “I’d watched Halima for years in the glossy pages of magazines and wanted so badly to work with her. But she seemed so out of reach. So when I received the email to work with her, I completely gasped for air. The strength that she possesses through activism is as powerful as her beauty.”

CHANGE STARTS WITH… “Each individual.”

Katie Keim

Katie Keim. Photo: Supplied.

HA says: “I never knew modesty could look so cool. Katie is beyond talented and I feel young and edgy, yet so classy and timeless when we work together. She makes me feel red- carpet ready and like I can top any best-dressed list.”

KK says: “In one of my first fittings with Halima, she was looking for an elastic to pull her hair back. We couldn’t find one so I took the one that was in my hair and handed it to her. She said, ‘Oh, you’re a real one, sis.’ In six words she made me feel like I was truly valued in her world. Halima acknowledges people; she shows recognition and gratitude. What she said to me, goes double for how I feel about her.”

BEING INCLUSIVE IS… “Respecting and entertaining the viewpoints and likes of others.”

Megumi Kashimura
Makeup artist

Megumi Kashimura. Photo: Supplied.

HA says: “As a Black woman, I often struggle to sit in a makeup artist’s chair and have the foundation match correctly. Meg knows exactly what products work on me, and our early morning girl chat is the best way to start my day. Meg is undoubtedly my secret weapon.”

MK says: “I’ve gotten to spent so much time with Halima, from glam time at 5am to crazy karaoke nights in New York City. Her beautiful soul and her braveness always inspire me.”

ACCEPTANCE LOOKS LIKE… “A choice to receive.”

Julie Kandalec
Nail Artist

Julie Kandalec. Photo: Supplied.

HA says: “Julie’s attention to detail and creativity are incredible. But it’s her kind heart and genuine soul that I love most. I know my nails will always look perfect as she consistently delivers a flawless look.”

JK says: “My favorite memory with Halima is from one Halloween when she went as Maleficent. We had so much fun and I am so grateful that the nails were such an important part of her costume. Halima made sure everyone saw them too, which is just who she is – always thinking of others.”

CHANGE STARTS WITH… “One person who takes action, like taking a knee. They then inspire more to take action, and altogether it becomes a wave of change.” 

Read Next: Halima Aden and Farida Osman Discuss the Importance of Representation

Originally published in the October 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia 

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