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Model Halima Aden quits runway shows over religious beliefs

The 23-year-old said lockdown had offered her a chance to reassess her work.

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Halima Aden made her modelling debut at New York Fashion Week in 2017, aged 19 (Matt Crossick/PA)

Halima Aden made her modelling debut at New York Fashion Week in 2017, aged 19 (Matt Crossick/PA)

Halima Aden made her modelling debut at New York Fashion Week in 2017, aged 19 (Matt Crossick/PA)

Muslim fashion model Halima Aden said she is stepping back from runway shows after feeling pressured to compromise her religious beliefs.

The Somali-American refugee, who has worked on campaigns for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and Kanye West’s Yeezy, is widely regarded as the world’s first hijab-wearing supermodel.

The 23-year-old, who was born to Somali parents in a Kenyan refugee camp, has appeared on the covers of British Vogue, Vogue Arabia and Allure.

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Halima Aden on the catwalk during the Tommy Hilfiger show at London Fashion Week February 2020 (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Halima Aden on the catwalk during the Tommy Hilfiger show at London Fashion Week February 2020 (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Halima Aden on the catwalk during the Tommy Hilfiger show at London Fashion Week February 2020 (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Explaining her decision in a post on Instagram Stories, Ms Aden detailed a number of instances where she felt she had lost touch with her religious beliefs.

These included missing prayers due to her busy work schedule and having her head draped in jeans in place of a head covering.

She wrote: “I can only blame myself for caring more about opportunity than what was actually at stake.”

In another post, she added: “My mom asked me to quit modelling a LONG time ago. I wish I wasn’t so defensive.

“Thanks to COVID and the breakaway from the industry I have finally realized where I went wrong on my hijab journey.”

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Rihanna (Ian West/PA)

Rihanna (Ian West/PA)

Rihanna (Ian West/PA)

In a third post, she suggested that her desire to see more Muslim women enter the fashion industry had clouded her judgment.

She said: “I was just so desperate back then for any ‘representation’, that I lost touch with who I was.”

Ms Aden singled out Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty fashion brand as one of the few that had allowed her to bring a hijab of her choice to set.

Rihanna subsequently replied on Instagram, saying: “Love you so much Queen.”

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But Ms Aden said she was not walking away permanently but rather setting conditions for her future work.

“If my hijab can’t be this visible – I’m not showing up,” she wrote under an image of her wearing a hijab which covered her chest and shoulders.

Catwalk stars including Gigi Hadid and Naomi Campbell also showed their support with messages.

Ms Aden moved to the US with her family aged seven, eventually settling in St Louis, Missouri.

She made her modelling debut at New York Fashion Week in 2017, aged 19, and in 2019 became the first model to wear the hijab and burkini in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.

Since 2018 she has been a Unicef ambassador focusing on children’s rights.

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