Halima
Halima appeared on cover of swimsuit edition wearing a burkini and hijabHalima appeared on cover of swimsuit edition wearing a burkini and hijab Twitter/Sports Illustrated Swimsuit

For the longest time, the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine's annual swimsuit edition has been associated with attractive female sportswomen, generally Caucasian, donning revealing clothing. But in a move that is a radical departure for the New York-based publication, this year's edition features a model who is wearing not just a full-body swimsuit – popularly known as burkini – but also a hijab.

The model who has become the first to appear in this type of clothing on the cover of the famous publication is Halima Aden. The 21-year-old comes from a Somalian family based in the US. The fact that she is a Muslim and lived early part of her life in a refugee camp has added to the cultural and social significance of this event.

Who is Halima Aden?

Halima was born in the Kakuma refugee camp of Kenya and was just seven years old when her family moved to the USA. They were able to settle down in Minnesota and provide proper education to the young girl. It was in her teenage years that Aden started taking note of the fashion and modelling industry. Without compromising some of her religious beliefs and cultural traditions, she began participating in fashion shows.

Her many firsts

There are several unique accomplishments to the credit of the Somali-American model. It was when she was a 19-year-old that Halima first made a big impression. While participating in the Miss Minnesota event, the aspiring model broke new ground by becoming the first-ever to wear a hijab in the history of this pageant.

This earned her the attention of many leading fashion houses and led to appearances on the cover of magazines like Elle, Allure and Vogue. In fact, she also holds the distinction of being the first lady to wear a hijab in both the Arabian and British editions of the latter publication.

The decision of Sports Illustrated is the latest of many moves being made by fashion publications to appear more diverse in their understanding of beauty and aesthetics. Various magazines have made a conscious attempt to feature models from a diverse ethnic and racial background in their photo-shoots. Will this bring about a permanent change in the fashion industry, only time will tell.