BURNSVILLE, Minnesota – A Minnesota young Muslim woman will be competing in this weekend’s Miss Minnesota USA as the first woman to participate in a beauty pageant while donning hijab.
“This pageant is so much more than just beauty. Their whole message is being confidently beautiful, so I didn’t think that I should allow my hijab to get into the way of me participating,” Halima Aden, 19, of St. Cloud, told MPR News on Wednesday, November 23.
“This is a great platform to show the world who I am … just because I’ve never seen a woman wearing a burkini (in a pageant) it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to be the first.”
Aden is the first fully-covered Muslim contestant to participate in the Miss Minnesota USA competition, to be held in Burnsville Saturday and Sunday.
The Somali-American teen has been wearing the hijab almost her entire life.
Aden, who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and came to Minnesota as a young child, graduated from Apollo High School in St. Cloud, where tension has been rising about the Somali community for years.
Donning the Islamic attire, she has been facing ridicule and bullying, but she said that came from people who do not understanding her religious and cultural beliefs.
The beauty pageant has come into spotlights after Trump denounced Mexican immigrants during his campaign, after which two television partners refused to broadcast the pageant.
Later on, Trump sold the Miss Universe pageant to the talent agency WME/IMG, which includes Miss USA.
Nevertheless, she was not thinking about Trump when she entered the pageant, seeing it as a chance to give her community a positive representation regardless of the election rhetoric.
“What I wanted to do was to just give people a different perspective,” she said.
“We just needed one more thing to unify us. This is a small act, but I feel like having the title of Miss Minnesota USA when you are a Somali-American, when you are a Muslim woman, I think that would open up people’s eyes.”
If she wins Miss Minnesota, Aden would move on to the Miss USA competition and then Miss Universe.
The decision to don a hijab and buqini in the pageant was welcomed by officials, who said the company values inclusion and celebrates diversity and that Aden’s burkini would be acceptable for the competition.
The decision “is in line with the values of the Miss Universe Organization in empowering women to be confidently beautiful,” a statement from Denise Wallace, Executive Co-Director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, said.