Over the past few years, Halima Aden has become a pioneering figure for shining a spotlight on social issues including human rights, race, and diversity. Throughout her career, Aden has shattered countless stereotypes by becoming the first model to wear a hijab on international runways in 2016, and the first hijab-wearing woman to be featured on the cover of Vogue.
The Somali-American model, who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp, has used her voice to inspire and amplify messages from those who are often unheard and is responsible for helping to diversify the fashion industry to become more inclusive of Muslims. The year 2020 proved to be an important year for Aden and her longstanding relationship with Vogue Arabia, as she joined the team as the Diversity Editor-at-Large. Despite all of her exceptional achievements and influential moments, it is clear that Aden is only at the beginning of her greatness and is sure to be breaking boundaries for years to come. In celebration of the two-time Vogue Arabia cover star‘s birthday today (September 19), we look back on her most powerful quotes and the valuable life lessons she has shared with the world.
On learning from hardships
“As grateful as I am for my incredible journey, I can’t turn a blind eye to the hardships I experienced as a refugee. After all, those same hardships taught me the qualities that define me today: resilience and tenacity.”
On speaking out against racism
“For too long, I’ve been told to turn the other cheek when faced with racism. Situations, where I’m not at fault yet, am still expected to rise above unjust mistreatment simply because it has been the easier solution. Well, I refuse. I don’t need to be the ‘bigger person;’ white people need to do better.”
On equal representation
“I’ve never claimed to be the perfect Muslim girl; I’m just being the best version of me that I can be. What drives me is my commitment to people around the world who have never felt represented before. I think it’s our duty and responsibility not to wait to be invited to the conversation but to initiate the conversation. Since day one, I’ve said, ‘Don’t change yourself, change the game.”
On knowing your self-worth
“Don’t let it [hate] numb your heart or make you feel less than. You have every right to pursue your passions and lead a happy, healthy life. The hate they give will never diminish your light. YOU are worthy! Your hijab is your crown. Your existence matters just like anyone else’s. You are a queen, and you got this!”
On taking risks
“Don’t be afraid to take risks and put yourself out there. You have to be an active participant in your life, and you have to go out there to make sure you are finding those opportunities and open doors. They don’t just come to you.”
On challenging stereotypes
“I have so many identities. I’m a black, Muslim, Somali-American, refugee, woman…all of those are important to me. I think the stereotype I fight to overcome most is that of choice. I choose to wear the hijab as a Muslim woman. No one is forcing me to do so.”