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Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue features first-ever model in burkini and hijab


Halima Aden appears in this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, hitting stands May 8. (Yu Tsai for Sports Illustrated/Sports Illustrated)

This year’s Sports Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is making waves.

The magazine known for photos of scantily clad women is featuring its first-ever model wearing a hijab and burkini. Halima Aden, a Muslim Somali-American, is pictured at a beach in her birth country of Kenya.

For one shoot, Aden lounges on a shallow stretch of sandy water, decked in an aqua and turquoise colored hijab and an electric blue burkini, or modest, full-body swimsuit designed to respect female Islamic dress traditions. In another, she lies on the shore in a multi-colored burkini against a mountainous backdrop.

Halima Aden for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2019: Kenya
Halima Aden for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2019: Kenya (Yu Tsai for Sports Illustrated/Sports Illustrated)

Aden, 21, was born in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp. “I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” Halima told Sports Illustrated. “So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya — I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.”

The Swimsuit Issue hits stands May 8.

Aden’s groundbreaking shoot for the mag isn’t the only industry first she’s pulled off. When she was 19, she became the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, where she went on to be a semi-finalist.

“We believe beauty knows no boundaries," Swimsuit editor MJ Day said. “I admire Halima, and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador. She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. When we met, I was instantaneously taken by her intelligence, enthusiasm and authenticity.”