For as long as I can remember Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue magazine was, in essence, a representation of true beauty. I saw these incredibly tall, skinny, blonde models parade carefree on the beach and thought to myself ‘that is what a beautiful woman is.’ Yes, that is a naive and not confident point of view, but when you’re a brown kid and all you see is white women on the cover of magazines, what other conclusions could you have? It’s not just Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue but all magazines, brands, and images on TV — it’s everywhere. That is why this moment of new beauty standards and acceptance is so important.
Since the inception of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 1964, the models were just as I mentioned, and now decades later there is a shift. A shift that is welcomed and much needed. It began in 2016 when they put plus-size model Ashley Graham on the cover, and now they’re doing it again this time with model Halima Aden. This time it’s not about breaking boundaries with body types but instead social and religious norms.
The 21-year-old Somali-American supermodel is the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini in the magazine proving that bearing it all on the beach isn’t the only way, especially if you’re Muslim. During the historic photo shoot, Aden said she never thought in a million years she’d be able to wear a burkini and hijab in a swimsuit magazine. Girl, you’re not the only one to think that.
“I keep thinking [back] to six-year-old me who, in this same country, was in a refugee camp,” Aden said in Sports Illustrated. “So to grow up to live the American dream [and] to come back to Kenya and shoot for SI in the most beautiful parts of Kenya — I don’t think that’s a story that anybody could make up.”
So what made Sports Illustrated want to be inclusive? Simply because of Aden.
“We believe beauty knows no boundaries,” SI Swimsuit editor MJ Day said. “I admire Halima, and I consider her an inspirational human for what she has decided to use her platform for and her work with Unicef as an ambassador. She is, in my opinion, one of the great beauties of our time, not only outside but inside. When we met, I was instantaneously taken by her intelligence, enthusiasm, and authenticity.”
While this is long overdue, I applaud SI Swimsuit for representing the Muslim community.