“We knew nothing about fashion, all we cared about was playing around barefoot.” That was how Halima Aden started out life in a refugee camp in Kenya, and the model, who has gone on to grace catwalks around the world, certainly hasn’t forgotten her roots. The 20-year-old Somali-American this month returned to the Kakuma Camp in which she was born, where she recalled her childhood memories in a new interview.
“It was good and fun,” she told CNN of growing up in Kenya. “We mixed with different people from diverse religions and communities and that made our childhood fun.” The former Vogue Arabia cover star was in the camp to deliver a TEDx talk, which brought together a number of current and former refugees besides other speakers and performers. The camp, which was founded in 1992 and is currently home to more than 185,000 inhabitants, might hold fond memories for Aden, but her trip was not without a tinge of sorrow.
“This was my first home, a place of safety for many families who come here to seek peace but it’s also sad that it is still a refugee camp,” she told the broadcaster. “It broke my heart to see how little has changed within the classrooms since I was in the camp. Refugee children deserve the same opportunities to flourish and be successful in school.” The veiled runway star, who rose to fame after donning traditional Muslim dress to compete in a US beauty pageant in 2016, is now working with the United Nations Children’s Fund to help inspire such children.
Aden, who has worked with Nike, Alberta Ferretti, and Yeezy, to name just a few, has worked on a short documentary about returning to Kenya, in collaboration with UNICEF and Teen Vogue, though no release date has yet been given. “This camp taught me so many lessons and I’m so grateful I had the chance to return,” the model told her 620,000 Instagram followers earlier this month. “A lot has changed since I’ve left but we still have along way to go.”