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Supermodel Halima Aden Turns Heel On Runway, Honors Her Faith & Herself

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  Fashion Me In Style

They say “do what you love, and the money will follow,” yet some money sources can taint your “love” so deeply that you have to walk away.

That’s what happened to Halima Aden, according to the history-making former fashion model. For her, following the opportunity of a lifetime devolved into a choice between her faith and a high-profile life in the fashion world.

Halima burst onto the national scene in 2016 after placing fourth in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant and then pursuing a modeling career -- all while wearing a hijab. Both her looks and devotion to her Muslim faith made her an instant standout.

That worked in her favor when she signed with IMG, one of the world’s top modeling agencies. Halima was able to include a clause in her contract that she would never have to remove her hijab -- a non-negotiable point for her -- and another guaranteeing her “a blocked-out box, allowing her to get dressed in the privacy of her own space,” reports the BBC.

For IMG, however, this proved to be a one-model-only accommodation. As time went on, Halima realized that other young Muslim models weren’t being treated with the same respect.

"That rubbed me the wrong way and I was like, 'OMG, these girls are following in my footsteps, and I have opened the door to the lion's mouth,'" she told the BBC.

Along with modeling, Halima has a deep commitment to giving back, especially to refugee children. Raised in a refugee camp in Kenya, “Halima from Kaluma” did a stint as a UNICEF Ambassador in tandem with her modeling career. She wanted to use her platform to show kids there that “if she could make it out, then so could they.”

That dream went unfilled, however, because the deeper Halima got involved, the more disappointing details she learned about the organization. When she returned to the Kaluma camp where she’d lived as a child, the situation came full circle in a disturbing way.

"I met with the kids and asked them, 'Are things still being done the way they were, do you still have to dance and sing in front of newcomers?' They said, 'Yes, but this time we're not doing it for other celebrities they'd bring to the camp, this time we're doing it for you.'"

Halima was guilt-stricken and upset. She says she still remembers when she and other children sang and danced for visiting celebrities.

Eventually, faced little compromises everywhere, from wearing smaller hijabs or even other “styled” fabrics on her head to not being able to go home for Muslim religious holidays like , Halima had a crisis of conscience.

She no longer recognized herself. And then came the final straw.

"Why would the magazine think it was acceptable to have a hijab-wearing Muslim woman when a naked man is on the next page?" she asks. It went against everything she believed in.

That’s when Halima realized that even though she looked to be on top of the world, inside she really wasn’t happy.

"I had zero excitement because I couldn't see myself. Do you know how mentally damaging that can 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.”

As it has for many, COVID put an extended pause on Halima’s jet-setting career and gave her some time to visit family and reflect. Now that she’s chosen to walk away from the jet-setting life, though, the former model seems mentally refreshed and renewed.

So what’s next for Halima Aden? Only time will tell, but there’s one thing we know for sure -- she’ll be helping others, just like her mother and grandmother taught her. In fact, Halima has just executive-produced the film I Am You, a film inspired by the true story of a refugee fleeing war and violence in Afghanistan.

I Am You is scheduled for release on Apple TV this March.

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