FASHION model Halima Aden has quit modelling and the fashion industry after realising that she felt “zero excitement” overseeing her face on magazine covers and felt as if she was losing her identity as a Muslim woman.
Aden left the fashion world at the end of 2020 because she found it difficult to “see herself” on the covers of fashion magazines and felt that fashion was never for her.
“I had zero excitement because I couldn’t see myself. Do you know how mentally damaging that can be to be to somebody? When I’m supposed to feel happy and grateful and I’m supposed to relate, because that’s me, that’s my own picture, but I was so far removed. My career was seemingly on top, but I was mentally not happy”, said the 23-year-old model told BBC’s Sodaba Haidare in a recent interview.
Aden also spoke about the importance of her working with and having control over her hijab, and how she made that a vocal point when discussing any modelling work, saying that she would have walked away from a contract if they hadn’t have let her put this as a clause in her paperwork before starting any campaigns.
Aden explained that, over her years in the industry, she found herself drifting into a “grey area” when it came to the representation of her hijab. She noticed that her hijab kept getting smaller on set, to the point where it would be replaced by the head coverings that she had ruled out from the start of her modelling career.
Aden added, “There are girls who wanted to die for a modelling contract but I was ready to walk away if it wasn’t accepted. I eventually drifted away and got into the confusing grey area of letting the team on-set style my hijab”.
Aden admitted that had “anxiety” thinking about the next few months after spending so much time at home during the coronavirus pandemic as she was always away during her career.
Speaking to BBC News, she said: “I was having anxiety thinking of 2021 because I loved staying at home with my family and seeing friends again”
“I’m grateful for this new chance that Covid gave me. We’re all reflecting about our career paths and asking, ‘Does it bring me genuine happiness, does it bring me joy?’”
The Somali-American model – born in Kakuma, Kenya – shot to the spotlight after participating in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant back in 2016, where she was a semi-finalist.
Since signing a contract with IMG Models Worldwide, Aden then became the first supermodel to model with a hijab at 19 years-old.
After appearing on numerous runways, fashion campaigns and magazine covers, news reports swirled in December when it was announced that the model had first stepped away from the fashion industry after it was alleged forced to compromise on her religious practices by wearing immodest clothing.
Aden confirmed the reports on Instagram and Twitter in November last year, after spending three years in the industry, with (now-deleted) posts on Instagram and Twitter. She wrote on Twitter: “Fashion was NEVER for me. I am for the PEOPLE! I am for my IMAAN! I have WOKEN UP!!!.”
Fashion was NEVER for me. I am for the PEOPLE! I am for my IMAAN! I have WOKEN UP!!! https://t.co/kuzoZLfgZi
— Halima Aden (@Kinglimaa) November 25, 2020
On Instagram she wrote, “Looking back now, I did what I said I would never do. Which is compromise who I am in order to fit in”.
She referenced times on set where brands replaced her traditional hijab instead covering her hair with jeans or ornamental objects instead of beauty looks that aligned with her modest principles.
“The pressure was getting unbearable, and I’m sad to say I went through a period of resenting the hijab,” Aden continued. “Just remember they call it a ‘hijab journey’ for a reason and it is never too late to reinstate your boundaries.”