Halima Aden: “Now is a good time to just be yourself”

Halima tells Grazia why individuality and originality are game-changing sentiments
Halima Aden: “Now is a good time  to just be yourself”

“Don’t change yourself, change the game,” Somali-American model and humanitarian Halima Aden declares, sharing the motto she lives by. “Do whatever you need to be heard, make a difference, leave your footprint and most importantly, never lose hope.”

It was during Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture event, Fashion Futures, that Grazia Middle East was reunited with the trailblazing model. Correction: Supermodel. And, Halima really is a modern-day ‘super’.

She broke on to the fashion scene in 2017 as the first hijab-wearing woman to walk the runway, before going on to cover magazines and world-class campaigns, including Fenty Beauty’s. Most importantly, the brown-eyed beauty used her background and newfound status to stand tall, speak out and change the conversation. She was named a UNICEF Ambassador in 2018, following her TED Talk from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, where she was born and lived until the age of seven.

“Fashion has given me the hope that the future of this industry will continue to accept and include people from all different walks of life. Because this has played such an instrumental role in my life, I will be supporting communities who need support,” states Halima. Fittingly, Halima was in Saudi Arabia celebrating Fashion Futures’ pioneering move to host the Kingdom’s first major runway show (which Halima both opened and closed). “This is a major first for me too – I’ve participated in fashion shows, but this was making history. I just never thought I would be part of something so grand and new, it really does symbolise the change that is happening,” she observes.

Halima gravitated toward the event because of its dedication to championing both modest style and Saudi talent (two elements which were previously overlooked internationally). “I think now is a good time to just be yourself, and that alone is good enough – your talent and your hard work is what determines how far you will go,” she acknowledges. “But that doesn’t mean you have to change who you are to make it in fashion.” Which is a notion that can ring true both for individuals and entire nations.

Halima Aden delivered a keynote speech at the Fashion Futures conference in Riyadh, attended by Grazia Editor in Chief Alison Tay

As a part of her visit, Halima also gave a speech driving home the importance of diversity within the community as an avenue for change. “Ultimately, fashion is a community comprised of people who see value in differences and who aren’t afraid of highlighting the unknown,” she explains. “I think that if we all open up our minds and hearts we will see that there is a community all around us.”

Halima entered the fashion community with a ‘take me as I am’ attitude, never once conforming or changing. As a result, the industry has made steps towards inclusivity and diversity. Halima exclaims, “Opening, walking the middle and then closing the runway shows the support that the community here in Saudi has for me. The level of pride that I took in being a part of that show and being in that moment, is because it is a moment in history.”

Photos: Getty images and Supplied