Halima Aden: 'Why I Quit Modelling'

Discussion in 'In the News...' started by Benn98, Jan 14, 2021.

  1. Benn98

    Benn98 Well-Known Member

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    Supermodel Halima Aden: ‘Why I quit’

    Published 17 hours ago

    Halima Aden, the first hijab-wearing supermodel, quit the fashion industry in November saying it was incompatible with her Muslim religion. Here, in an exclusive interview, she tells BBC Global Religion reporter Sodaba Haidare the full story - how she became a model, and how she reached the decision to walk away.

    Halima, 23, is in St Cloud, Minnesota, where she grew up surrounded by other Somalis. She's wearing ordinary clothes and no makeup, cheerfully petting her dog, Coco.

    "I'm Halima from Kakuma," she says, referring to the refugee camp in Kenya, where she was born. Others have described her as a trailblazing hijab-wearing supermodel or as the first hijabi model to feature on the cover of Vogue magazine - but she left all that behind two months ago, saying the fashion industry clashed with her Muslim faith.

    "It's the most comfortable I've ever felt in an interview," she laughs. "Because I didn't spend 10 hours getting ready, in an outfit I couldn't keep."

    As a hijab-wearing model, Halima was selective about her clothing. At the start of her career, she would take a suitcase filled with her own hijabs, long dresses and skirts to every shoot. She wore her own plain black hijab for her first campaign for Rihanna's Fenty Beauty.

    However she was dressed, keeping her hijab on for every shoot was non-negotiable. It was so important to her that in 2017 when she signed with IMG, one of the biggest modelling agencies in the world, she added a clause to her contract making IMG agree that she would never have to remove it. Her hijab meant the world to her.

    "There are girls who wanted to die for a modelling contract," she says, "but I was ready to walk away if it wasn't accepted."

    This was despite the fact that at that stage no-one had heard of her - that she was "a nobody".

    But as time went on she had less control over the clothes she wore, and agreed to head coverings she would have ruled out at the start.

    "I eventually drifted away and got into the confusing grey area of letting the team on-set style my hijab."

    In the last year of her career her hijab got smaller and smaller, sometimes accentuating her neck and chest. And sometimes instead of the hijab, she wrapped jeans, or other clothes and fabrics, around her head.

    Another clause of Halima's contract guaranteed her a blocked-out box, allowing her to get dressed in the privacy of her own space.

    But she soon realised that other hijab-wearing models, who had followed her into the industry, were not being treated with the same respect. She would see them being told to find a bathroom to change in.

    "That rubbed me the wrong way and I was like, 'OMG, these girls are following in my footsteps, and I have opened the door to the lion's mouth.'"

    She had expected her successors to be her equals, and this intensified her protective feelings towards them.

    "A lot of them are so young, it can be a creepy industry. Even the parties that we attended, I would always find myself in big sister mode having to grab one of the hijab-wearing models because she'd be surrounded by a group of men following and flocking [round] her. I was like, 'This doesn't look right, she's a child.' I would pull her out and ask her who she was with."

    Part of this sense of responsibility and community comes from Halima's Somali background.

    As a child in Kakuma refugee camp, in north-western Kenya, she was taught by her mother to work hard and to help others. And this continued after they moved to Minnesota, when Halima was seven, becoming part of the largest Somali community in the US.

    So there was a problem when Halima became her high school's first hijab-wearing homecoming queen (an honour bestowed on the school's most popular students). She knew her mum, whose focus was on good grades, would disapprove.

    "I was so embarrassed, because when you get nominated, the kids come to your house and I said, 'Don't do that - my mum will have the shoe ready and you wouldn't know what you've gotten yourselves into!'"

    Her fears were justified. Halima's mum broke the homecoming crown. "You're focusing way too much on friends and beauty pageants," she said.

    But Halima still took part in Miss Minnesota USA in 2016. She was the first hijab-wearing contestant and became a semi-finalist.

    And then, to her mother's dismay, Halima chose to pursue a career in modelling - a career her mother felt was in conflict with who Halima was as a person: black, Muslim, refugee.

    Even when she started walking on some of the world's major runways for Yeezy and Max Mara, or became a Miss USA judge, her mother still encouraged her to "get a proper job".

    It was the humanitarian side of Halima's career that had gone some way to convincing her mother that it was worth it. As a refugee who had walked 12 days from Somalia to Kenya for a better life, she knew the value of helping those in need.

    "She said, 'There's no way you'll do modelling if it doesn't have a giving-back component.' In my first meeting with IMG I told them to take me to Unicef," Halima says.

    IMG supported her in this and in 2018 Halima became a Unicef ambassador. As she had spent her childhood in a refugee camp, her work focused on children's rights.

    "My mum never viewed me as a model or cover girl. She viewed me as a beacon of hope for young girls and would always remind me to be a good role model for them."

    Halima wanted to raise awareness about displaced children, and to show the children that if she could make it out of the refugee camp, they could hope to one day do the same.

    But Unicef didn't live up to her expectations.

    In 2018, not long after becoming a Unicef ambassador, she visited the Kakuma camp to give a Ted Talk.

    "I met with the kids and asked them, 'Are things still being done the way they were, do you still have to dance and sing in front of newcomers?' They said, 'Yes, but this time we're not doing it for other celebrities they'd bring to the camp, this time we're doing it for you.'"

    Halima was guilt-stricken and upset. She says she still remembers when she and other children sang and danced for visiting celebrities.

    "The UN workers prepped me for what was to come: I had my first headshot, thanks to those organisations."

    It seemed to her that the organisation focused more on its brand than on children's education.

    "I could spell 'Unicef' when I couldn't spell my own name. I was marking X," she says. "Minnesota gave me my first book, my first pencil, my first backpack. Not Unicef."

    She had assumed all of that had changed since she left.

    In November, when she video-called the kids in Kakuma for World Children's Day, she decided she couldn't carry on. It was hard to see them in winter in the middle of a global pandemic.

    "After speaking to the kids, I had a breakthrough," she says.

    "I just decided I'm done with the NGO world using me for 'my beautiful story of courage and hope'"

    Unicef USA told the BBC: "We are grateful for [Halima's] three-and-a-half years of partnership and support. Her remarkable story of resilience and hope has guided her vision for a world that upholds the rights of every child. It has been a privilege for Unicef to work with Halima and we wish her all the best in her future endeavours."

    [​IMG]
    Halima's doubts about the modelling side of her career had also been multiplying.

    As demand for her in the fashion industry grew, she spent less time with her family and would be away from home on Muslim religious festivals.

    "In the first year of my career I was able to make it home for Eid and Ramadan but in the last three years, I was travelling. I was sometimes on six to seven flights a week. It just didn't pause," she says.



    In September 2019, she was featured on the cover of King Kong magazine, wearing bright red and green eye shadow and a large piece of jewellery on her face. It resembled a mask and covered everything but her nose and mouth.

    "The style and makeup were horrendous. I looked like a white man's fetishised version of me," she says.

    And to her horror, she found a picture of a nude man in the same issue.

    "Why would the magazine think it was acceptable to have a hijab-wearing Muslim woman when a naked man is on the next page?" she asks. It went against everything she believed in.


    [​IMG]
    King Kong told the BBC: "The artists, photographers and contributors with whom we work express themselves in ways which may both appeal to some and seem provocative to others, but the stories they produce always respect the subject and the model.

    "We are sorry that Halima now regrets the work she did with us, and that there were images in the issue that she personally did not like, but were in no way connected to her own feature."

    Halima says that when she spotted her photograph on the cover of magazines at airports, as she travelled between shoots, she would often barely recognise herself.
    [​IMG]
    "I had zero excitement because I couldn't see myself. Do you know how mentally damaging that can be to be to somebody? When I'm supposed to feel happy and grateful and I'm supposed to relate, because that's me, that's my own picture, but I was so far removed.

    "My career was seemingly on top, but I was mentally not happy."

    And there were those other problems - her hijab rule getting stretched to breaking point, and the way other hijab-wearing models were being treated.

    The coronavirus pandemic put everything in perspective. With Covid-19 halting fashion shoots and runway shows, she returned home to St Cloud to spend time with her mother, to whom she remains incredibly close.

    "I was having anxiety thinking of 2021 because I loved staying at home with my family and seeing friends again," she says.

    All this explains why, in November, she decided to give up both modelling and her role with Unicef.

    "I'm grateful for this new chance that Covid gave me. We're all reflecting about our career paths and asking, 'Does it bring me genuine happiness, does it bring me joy?'" she says.

    Her mother's prayers had finally been granted. She was so elated she even agreed to do a photoshoot with her daughter, just for fun.

    "When I was a model, my mum turned down every shoot, she wouldn't even do mother-daughter campaigns. I wanted to give her a chance to see me in my creative zone," says Halima excitedly.

    "She really is my number one inspiration and I'm so grateful God picked me to be her daughter. She's truly a remarkable and resilient woman."

    The photoshoot is not the only thing Halima is excited about. She has just finished executive-producing a film inspired by the true story of a refugee fleeing war and violence in Afghanistan. I Am You is due to be released on Apple TV in March.

    "We're anxiously waiting to see if we've been nominated for an Oscar!" she says.

    Quitting Unicef doesn't mean Halima has given up doing charity work.

    "I'm not going to stop volunteering," she says. "I don't think the world needs me as a model or celebrity, it needs me as Halima from Kakuma - somebody who understands the true value of a penny and the true value of community."

    But first she is going to take a break.

    "You know, I've never been on a proper vacation. I'm putting my mental health and my family at the top. I'm thriving, not just surviving. I'm getting my mental health checked, I'm getting therapy time."

    BBC
     
  2. Benn98

    Benn98 Well-Known Member

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    I can't believe Halima Aden said such terrible things about an Albert Watson shoot!
    And does she realise that by going standing on this moral pedestal she's putting the spotlight on other hijab-wearing models such as Ugbad? In fact, I'm sure she's referring to Ugbad when she's talking about the young girl at parties with men flocking around them.
     
  3. GERGIN

    GERGIN Well-Known Member

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    I'm very happy for her success as a Muslim model, she really broke boundaries in this industry, but this irks me;

    "In September 2019, she was featured on the cover of King Kong magazine, wearing bright red and green eye shadow and a large piece of jewellery on her face. It resembled a mask and covered everything but her nose and mouth.

    "The style and makeup were horrendous. I looked like a white man's fetishised version of me," she says.

    And to her horror, she found a picture of a nude man in the same issue.

    "Why would the magazine think it was acceptable to have a hijab-wearing Muslim woman when a naked man is on the next page?" she asks. It went against everything she believed in.


    [​IMG]
    King Kong told the BBC: "The artists, photographers and contributors with whom we work express themselves in ways which may both appeal to some and seem provocative to others, but the stories they produce always respect the subject and the model.

    "We are sorry that Halima now regrets the work she did with us, and that there were images in the issue that she personally did not like, but were in no way connected to her own feature.""


    Girl, do your research before doing work for a publication that is notorious for being provocative....
     
  4. Phuel

    Phuel Well-Known Member

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    Good riddance. Ain't no loss.

    Can't stand these Bible/Quran thumpers. Fashion is a realm and sanctuary for liberation and creative provocateurs-- not these conservative morality high-horsers.
     
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  5. MulletProof

    MulletProof Well-Known Member

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    Article looking longer than her career..

    She's just..... gone, in a different dimension. 'Ugh, I just cannot see myself in any of these covers'.. you dumb idiot, you know you're a model, right? you're not supposed to see yourself, EVER, no one cares about your thoughts or beliefs or real face, you're whatever someone's vision (s*itty or not) that day is, you sell coca-colas, that's ALL you have to do, sell s*it. Just.. go build a career where your brains are involved, land covers because of that and then complain that they inexplicably gave you an extravagant head piece or trashy makeup when you just wanted to campaign for votes, now that would be insulting.
     
  6. THD96

    THD96 Well-Known Member

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    Does she gonna have a "Julia Nobis" retirement plan? So she gonna throw everyone that help her under the bus so she can promote her new Apple TV project. Cool, hope she get that Oscars nomination tho, hope it's worth it. If she can demanded IMG to put a clause in her contract, then she can turn down any jobs that doesn't feel right to her. And does she really do that to Ugbad when she has a emotional mention Halima name in one of the Vogue video. Don't need these type of close mind conservative in my King Kong magazine anyway.
     
  7. Benn98

    Benn98 Well-Known Member

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    ^Article looking longer than her career.....:rofl::rofl::rofl:

    She basically paved the way for the others and that was great to bear witness of that and not read about it in history books.
    But yeah, she sounds like those two models in ANTM 1, the Christian ones who didn't want to go on dates and do the swimsuit challenge because it was sinful? Sad thing is Robin (I think?) was actually really cute and would probably have won.

    I don't understand the hijab clause and how IMG even allowed it? If nobody can touch it how is she supposed to form part of a shoot?
     
  8. MulletProof

    MulletProof Well-Known Member

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    Ask Mica. Now that's something truly inexplicable and untouchable happening above her eyes and it's pretty much the reason for her success.
     
    whippie and Benn98 like this.
  9. Yohji

    Yohji Well-Known Member

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    Good to know I'm not the only one who cringed reading this.
     
  10. Benn98

    Benn98 Well-Known Member

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    LOL, true! Wait but didn't you feel some sort of way when HB Argentina gave her the Venus de Ebano makeover? LOL
     
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  11. helmutnotdead

    helmutnotdead Well-Known Member

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    I want to know what do you mean lol
     
  12. Srdjan

    Srdjan Well-Known Member

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    I hope she made this decision because she was uncomfortable with the profession, and not because the relatives and the neighbors were. There's a lot of shaming in traditional Muslim societies, and I am honestly hoping that did not prevail in making the decision, as her statements subtly reflect it.
     
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  13. MulletProof

    MulletProof Well-Known Member

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    :rofl: how on earth do you always remember (and know how to find) all of the posts every active member has ever made!

    See how I was already fixated on that haircut? in some (not so eloquent) way I'm suggesting in that 6 year-old post that she's nowhere without it and it's pretty basic, but predictable, of the magazine to even try knowing that'll be the awkward result..
     
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  14. avonlea002

    avonlea002 Well-Known Member

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    So true. Whole thing gives me a major eye roll. Why would you choose an industry thriving on values that have nothing to do with those imposed by your religion. So much for all that freedom in islam they talk about, I guess.
    Bye Girl. You won't be missed.
     
  15. Miran

    Miran Active Member

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    Nowdays everyone is a supermodel :hardhead:, noone really cares why she quit modelling.
     
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  16. aracic

    aracic Moderator

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    Girl... what fetish is that supposed to be? I don't understand how she ever thought she could juggle both the fashion industry and such strict beliefs. If you won't let them style your hijab, do your makeup and will demand to cover up neck to toe so that none of your features are highlighted in any way whenever you do a shoot, there's only so much work you can do in fashion. It's boring! I'm surprised she even lasted as long as she did with all that. Hopefully Ugbad doesn't follow in her footsteps! I always found her much more interesting.
     
  17. bluestar

    bluestar Well-Known Member

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    I can't for the life of me even remember any memorable fashion shows/magazine covers/editorials/campaigns that she was apart of in the last few years. Just goes to show how much of a 'supermodel' she was.
     
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  18. dsamg

    dsamg Well-Known Member

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    I am so glad everyone here feels that same way. I fully support anyone's right to believe in whatever things they want and live their life their own way but you can't expect everyone to bend to it - not the laws, not entire industries etc. Her ONE JOB was to be a chameleon, to play a part! The job is not to be yourself!

    And seriously because you're in a magazine they can't also have a naked man in there on a different page? So essentially you want the industry to respect your way of life but you can't respect anyone else's?! Insufferable. Bye.
     
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  19. theBlueRider

    theBlueRider Active Member

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    Exactly.

    I'm sick of this trend of asking models to be more than a model. That they're supposed to be some sort of image for a set of beliefs or ideology or philanthropic cause. This whole idea of all models should have some sort of platform is tiresome. Personally, I wish we could take the microphone and megaphones away from them because the pressure for everyone to have a platform isn't actually good for their mental health (or even the sake of society with the sort of magical thinking and misinformation culture stemming from too big microphones).
     
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  20. gunsnroses

    gunsnroses Active Member

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    I’m a both a Somali and a Muslim woman and was really happy to see someone like myself represented in fashion. I loved seeing Halima do high fashion shoots. I was really disappointed and confused when she posted her story on Instagram last year. I didn’t realize she hated those jobs she did.

    After reading her Instagram stories and now this, she sounds like a teenager who wanted to rebel against her mother then grew up and regretted it. Also the way she describes her past work sounds like the usual things I’ll hear from friends and family who “have seen the light” and want to save everyone.
     

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