By Associated Press
- CLOUD, Minn. — A Somali-American woman will be the first to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA contest while wearing a hijab and other modest Muslim clothing that keeps her fully covered.
Halima Aden, 19, of St. Cloud will be part of the competition Saturday and Sunday in Burnsville. In addition to her hijab, she’ll wear a full-body outfit called a burkini during the swimsuit competition, and she’ll modify evening gowns, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
Denise Wallace, executive co-director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, said in a statement that the company values inclusion and celebrates diversity. Wallace said Aden’s burkini will be acceptable and the decision “is in line with the values of the Miss Universe Organization in empowering women to be confidently beautiful.”
Aden said she’s been bullied for wearing her hijab and hopes the pageant will help disrupt some misconceptions about her religious and cultural beliefs.
“This pageant is so much more than just beauty. Their whole message is being confidently beautiful, so I didn’t think that I should allow my hijab to get into the way of me participating,” Aden said. “This is a great platform to show the world who I am … just because I’ve never seen a woman wearing a burkini (in a pageant) it doesn’t mean that I don’t have to be the first.”
If Aden wins Miss Minnesota USA, she would go on to compete in the Miss USA competition. The winner of that goes on to Miss Universe, formerly owned by President-elect Donald Trump, who sold the pageant after broadcast partners refused to air it due to remarks he made about Mexican immigrants during the campaign. Trump has also spoken negatively about Somalis in Minnesota.
Aden, who was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and came to Minnesota as a child, said she wasn’t thinking about Trump when she entered the pageant.
“What I wanted to do was to just give people a different perspective,” she said. “We just needed one more thing to unify us. This is a small act, but I feel like having the title of Miss Minnesota USA when you are a Somali-American, when you are a Muslim woman, I think that would open up people’s eyes.”