— Leila Navidi (@LeilaNavidi) November 27, 2016
A Somali-American teen is the first to woman to participate in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant with a hijab.
If Halima Aden, a 19-year-old St Cloud college student, wins the two-day pageant on Sunday night, she’ll compete at the 2017 Miss USA competition, representing the state of Minnesota.
Aden also wore a “bikini” during the swimsuit segment of the competition on Saturday night, amid cheers from the crowd.
Halima Aden starts off Miss Minnesota USA’s swimsuit segment to big cheers from the crowd. Announcer: “She’s making history tonight.” pic.twitter.com/OUvbHv6xct
— Liz Sawyer (@ByLizSawyer) November 27, 2016
Aden, who has never competed in a pageant before, decided to join this year’s competition to break negative stereotypes and misconceptions of Muslim Americans, Somali-Americans and Muslim women.
“I think part of the problem is they’re not interacting with people who are Somali,” Aden told TV station WCCO, of those who hold negative conceptions of Somali-Americans in Minnesota.
“There is not one description of beauty, that in fact it has different faces, different stories, and different background, and it’s important to embrace all of those,” Aden added.
Aden was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, and emigrated with her parents as a child to Minnesota — a popular place to settle for Somali immigrants.
The Miss USA pageant was part owned by President-elect Donald Trump for nearly two decades and aired on NBC Universal and Univision, but the networks said last year that they would no longer air the pageant following controversial comments made by Trump on immigrants. The Miss USA pageant is now broadcast on Fox.
Aden has faced some opposition for entering the competition from members of her own community, and even her mother, who believes Aden should focus on school, according to an article in the Star Tribune.
Attributing her disagreement with her mom to a generational gap, Aden decided to forge ahead, and bought a bikini online for the swimsuit segment of the competition.
“The hijab is a symbol that we wear on our heads, but I want people to know that it is my choice. I’m doing it because I want to do it,” Aden said.