There have been several moments in model Halima Aden’s life when she’s been broken a barrier by simply being who she is. The model and activist was the first Muslim homecoming queen at her high school; the first Somali student senator at her college; and the first hijab-wearing woman to be the face of numerous fashion magazine covers, including Allure and British Vogue.

Earlier this year she appeared in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue luxuriating on Kenya’s Watamu Beach. But instead of a revealing swimsuit, Aden modeled brightly colored hijabs and modest burkinis, her body covered from head to toe.

Now she’s breaking another barrier. In celebration of stepping into a new decade, Aden’s gracing the cover of ESSENCE’s January/February 2020 issue as the first Black female cover star wearing a hijab. “It’s important for me to be visible and to do whatever I can to let girls know that they don’t have to change who they are,” she said to writer Jeannine Amber. “I want them to know the world will meet them exactly where they stand.”

Muslim activist and author Blair Imani hails Aden as a game changer. “She’s an absolute powerhouse,” she said to ESSENCE. “She’s constantly giving back and lifting others up. It would be very easy to stick a model who doesn’t usually wear hijab in a scarf for a shoot or a runway show, but Halima’s presence shows me and many others that we matter, and our looks and styles are more than a trend.”

Loading the player...

ESSENCE’s January/February 2020 issue will be on newsstands in early January.


Chief Content & Creative Officer: Moana Luu (@moanaluu)
Photographer: JD Barnes (@jdthecombo)
Writer: Jeannine Amber (@jamberstar)
Stylist/Fashion Director: Marielle Bobo (@mariellebobo)
Makeup: Jessica Smalls (@jessicasmalls)
Set Design: Penelope Bouklas (@propsbypenelope)
Global Beauty Director: Julee Wilson (@missjulee)
Creative Director: Nia Lawrence (@mochamommy_nyc)
Producer: Natalie Gialluca (@nataliegialluca