Halima Aden has been recognized as a groundbreaker in the fashion industry. She was the first Hijabi (a person of Islamic faith, wearing a headscarf) to participate in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, the first to wear a burkini for Sports Illustrated magazine, and has been featured in Vogue and Allure, among many big names.

Halima’s journey to success was not conventional. Born in a Kenyan refugee camp from Somali heritage, she moved to the USA as a child and was bullied for her accent and Hijab. Yet, the representation she provided for Hijabis carried a secret.

Recently, through a series of Instagram stories, Halima unleashed her truth describing the challenges she endured as a model. Despite her mother’s disposition to her career, Halima continued to compromise her faith, styling her Hijab and wearing clothing that made her feel uncomfortable. Halima chose to suppress these feelings and said, “I was just so desperate back then for any ‘representation’ that I lost touch with who I was.” She consistently tried to change herself, her Hijab, and her appearance to blend in with the industry. Her Hijab was often just another accessory for stylists mixed between fabrics and makeup.

In an American Eagle photoshoot, Halima wore jeans wrapped around her head—the very fabric we wear around our legs was used to mold the sacred Hijab. She described how, in her life, she would only wear skirts and despite this, she allowed her styling to be contradictory to her own beliefs.

When I discovered Halima, I was inspired to see a young and intelligent Hijabi woman represent us on international platforms. But I soon lost touch with her as I felt the image she portrayed failed to align with my own. Every Muslim woman is at a different step of their Hijab journey and, while I was not going to judge her, it was saddening to not have a role model wear a Hijab the prescribed way.

Halima’s mother consistently encouraged her daughter to focus on her deen (religion or faith) and correct herself, yet like many young Muslims, she struggled until COVID-19 provided her time to reflect. Islam never undermines the value of our parents, especially our mothers, whose feet house the heavenly abode (Hadith Nasai 3104). For young Muslims today, distractions from our faith are everywhere, including on social media platforms like TikTok. From haram relationships to immoral entertainment and persuasive friends, listening to our parents seems like the least of our needs. Be it Khabib or Halima, we see the importance that some of the most popular Muslims today place on their mothers and fathers. Yes, Halima is an inspiration for Hijabis interested in media, but more importantly, she is a testament to parental obedience and love for her faith.

Halima chose to unapologetically stand up for faith and send out a clear message stating she would no longer mold herself to conventional beauty standards. A Hijab is not an accessory, but a symbol of modesty and submission to God— nothing less.