Halima Aden on Diversity in the Modeling Industry: “This Isn’t a Trend . . . These Women Are Here to Stay”

September 21, 2020 at 09:43PM

Halima Aden is one of the many supermodels that certainly hasn’t gone dark during the coronavirus pandemic. She’s working hard from home, having promoted her new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue feature, launched a line of hijabs, face mask sets, and turbans, and modeled in Carine Roitfeld’s virtual runway show, which brought some light to the industry during trying times.

Here, the 23-year-old model, activist, and influencer reflects with POPSUGAR on the past several months and highlights all the silver linings she can see. Halima’s been learning how to fine-tune her technology skills (see: flawless selfie above), and while she recognizes how far the fashion industry’s come, she has a few ideas as to how we can continue to ensure diverse representation in the future.

POPSUGAR: What still gets you excited about fashion right now?
Halima Aden: The thing that gets me most excited is that brands are pushing bigger messages. They are using their status and massive reach to do good and give back. That is incredible to see. I have always wanted to use my voice to combine fashion and activism and I think that is something that the entire fashion industry is focusing on right now. I know many brands have privately been doing this for years, but are now recognizing that their consumers want to hear these great social causes they are supporting and the impact they are making.

PS: What does it mean to have style in 2020?
HA: It’s kind of like “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” I think fashion is all about making it your own. I sometimes look at what people in the industry are wearing and wonder to myself, “Wow, so that’s fashion?” But that’s the beauty of it. Take risks and don’t be afraid to try something that hasn’t been done. That has always been my messaging in life and I think it applies to fashion in 2020. At the end of the day, you do you!

PS: What has your experience been like working in the industry virtually these past few months?
HA: It has been a real challenge, but rewarding nonetheless. Working virtually has given me such a great appreciation for everyone on set. It takes a village, and every job on set requires such skill and talent. Having to be my own makeup artist, stylist, photographer, set director, producer, lighting tech, the list goes on . . . it’s no easy feat. I can’t wait to get back to set and hug everyone who makes each shoot come to life, but I must say, I have also been really happy and impressed with the outcome of the work I’ve done from my home. Learning more about technology has been something I’ve had to do for work, not by choice, but that’s something I can take with me into the future.

“Brands are not checking a box; rather, they are seeing value in utilizing models for campaigns who their customers can relate to.”

PS: What does being a model mean in 2020, and beyond?
HA: Being a model in 2020 is so encouraging as we are seeing such diversity. We are seeing the Maye Musks, Ashley Grahams, Winnie Harlows – such gorgeous and powerful women who are all combating age-old stereotypes of what beauty looks like. We are seeing that this isn’t a trend . . . these women are here to stay. One thing I am particularly proud of is that just three and a half years ago, there was no such thing as a hijab-wearing high fashion model. Now, it is not uncommon to see a hijabi on the runway or on magazine covers. I may have been the first, but most certainly not the last, and that shows that this path we are on, highlighting inclusivity and acceptance, is here for the long run. I truly believe that brands are not checking a box; rather, they are seeing value in utilizing models for campaigns who their customers can relate to.

PS: What are the craziest beauty or fashion looks you’ve had to pull off at home during the pandemic?
HA: I walked in Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book virtual runway show, which featured such incredible talent. It was an absolute blast and such an honor, but I will say, my girl Mei [Kawajiri] and her request for the models’ nail polish was over-the-top. She had us all write our names in black liquid eyeliner on just one particular fingernail. I was like, “Mei, how in the world do you expect me to do this?” Luckily, my roommate was able to help me. If you haven’t seen my nails, they are so short and tiny. It’s a miracle that “Halima” fit across my nail.

PS: What’s your best tip for capturing the shot from home?
HA: Lighting, lighting, lighting! I got a ring light that has become my best friend for at-home shoots during this time.

PS: Do you have a favorite fashion purchase you’ve made while at home?
HA: I got a puppy dog. That counts, right? She is my fashion accessory. Her name is Koko and she is all of two and a half pounds. I’m obsessed, but it has been so hard. I am not getting any sleep and she demands my attention 24/7. I don’t know how my mom friends do this! She does have a fabulous wardrobe, as I like to dress her up.

PS: Have you worked on any DIY projects?
HA: I did buy a patio furniture set and BBQ grill. I have been home in Minnesota and we Minnesotans live for spending time outside in the summer since we have such harsh winters. I have been able to spend lots of time on my patio, enjoying my tea in the morning and taking in the summer nights. I have really made my outdoor space comfortable and cute.

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