The Somali-American model Halima Aden shows off on the cover of Sports Illustrated: not in a bikini, but in a burkini. The 21-year-old Muslim woman thus becomes the first to appear on the front page of the annual bathing suit special in concealing clothing.
Aden was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and moved to the United States as a child. She usually does all her modeling with a headscarf, and thus became the first veiled woman on the cover of the British Vogue and the American Allure. On the cover of Sports Illustrated, she poses with a burkini, leaving only her face, hands and feet uncovered. “Young girls who wear hijabs (headscarves, eds) should have women in every industry to look up to,” Aden told BBC. “The reactions are incredible and I am so honored that Sports Illustrated has taken the step to showcase the beauty that modestly dressed women possess.”
It is striking that Sports Illustrated has opted for a burkini on the cover. The magazine is primarily aimed at men and is known for the annual bathing suit special with few concealing photos. The decision provokes criticism here and there.
“If you wear a hijab and cover your skin – whether you think our religion demands it or if you want to be modest – It is completely counter-intuitive to pose sexy in a magazine known for objectifying women”, a user writes on Twitter. And also: “I would understand if it was for a catalog for women. But a magazine that is meant for men. That completely contradicts the purpose of the hijab.”
MJ Day, the woman in charge of the Sports Illustrated bathing suit special, says that with the striking cover she wants to show that beauty knows no bounds. “[Aden and I] both know that women are so often judged based on how they look or what they wear. Whether you feel most beautiful and confident in a burkini or bikini, you are worthy.”