An Interview With Halima Aden on Style and Representation

As you spoke to on the Summit stage, unfortunately we live in a time when what women choose to wear is still being criticized. France has even banned women from wearing burkinis to the beach. What would you say to these critics?

One of the hardest things for me to read about is women and young girls from Muslim communities drowning. And I admit that I never learned how to swim, as there was never a swimsuit growing up that allowed me to take lessons or join the school swim team. What I would say to the critics is, “Why in the world do you care what a woman wears to the beach or pool? It is made from swimsuit material and is just another form of swimwear.”

I can’t tell you the number of women who saw my spread in Sports Illustrated, who are not Muslim or even modest dressers necessarily, but said how excited they were as a skin cancer survivor to see a fully covered swimsuit option. Or receiving a message from a teenage girl, who again isn’t Muslim, who saw Sports Illustrated and reached out, happy to see a swimsuit that could hide her insecurities from an accident telling me she would now go swimming with her friends. Why anyone is banning anyone from a non-offensive wardrobe item, that can also be the difference between life or death in Muslims learning the basic life skill like swimming, is simply beyond me.