Somali-American fashion model Halima Aden, who has fronted campaigns for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and Kanye West’s Yeezy, announced Wednesday via Instagram that she is quitting runway.
At the age of 19, Aden made her modelling debut at New York Fashion week in 2017 and became overnight, a star after being hailed as the world’s first Muslim hijab-wearing supermodel.
The 23-year-old was featured on the covers of British Vogue, Vogue Arabia, and Allure.
However, despite her success, Aden said that the high fashion industry had made her lose the sense of “the real Halima” and made her re-evaluate her modelling career.
Aden, who is signed to IMG Models, posted a series of Instagram stories detailing the struggles that came with her line of work while balancing her identity as a practicing Muslim woman.
She stated that the coronavirus pandemic allowed her to reflect on her values and helped her realize that had she continued down her current path, she may have stopped wearing and embodying the values attached to her hijab “completely”.
Aden added that she often put herself in compromising positions, including missing obligatory prayer times in the Islamic faith and agreeing to be draped with a pair of jeans in place of a headscarf.
After the jeans shoot with American Eagle Outfitters, she disclosed that she had sobbed in her hotel room. The model usually chooses to wear longer skirts and dress styles as a visible marker of modesty – but she said swapping jeans for a hijab cheapened and compromised her act of worship.
While the campaign encouraged consumers to “find your style” – the former model stated she felt she had lost her own.
Aden continued: “I went back to my hotel room and just sobbed after this shoot because deep down I knew this wasn’t it. But was too scared to speak up.”
She said what she went through was a “common struggle” – particularly among minority groups in fields where they are underrepresented, adding that people would “slowly start compromising” their most basic principles to “fit in”.
She told her fans not to sell out, adding that she blamed herself for caring more about the opportunity than what was actually at stake.
Aden stated that her mother helped anchor her through the constant struggles of balancing conformity with retaining aspects of her personal cultural identity.
Many influential personalities have shared their support for Aden, including Rihanna, and model sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid also expressed their “love” for Aden, writing that they were both “proud” of her friend and sis in how far she had come.