BURNSVILLE, Minn. - She didn't make the top 5, but what the heck... making history is something to be proud of.
St. Cloud resident Halima Aden, age 19, made the top 15 contestants in the 2016 Miss Minnesota USA Pageant in Burnsville but was eliminated when the contenders were narrowed to five.
Aden, who was born in Kenya but moved to Minnesota as a child, wore a traditional hijab on her head and competed in the swimsuit competition while fully covered in a burkini, in accordance with her conservative Muslim faith. She is the first competitor to wear that attire in the history of the pageant.
“A lot of people will look at you and will fail to see your beauty because you’re covered up and they’re not used to it, so growing up I just had to work on my people skills and give people a chance to really know me besides the clothing,” Aden told KARE 11's Ellery McCardle.
Pageant officials say they fully supported Aden’s choice to remain covered.
“I think for Halima standing on the stage this weekend she is showing other women that they too can do that and that it's possible for them,” said Denise Wallace, executive co-director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant.
Aden said she was overwhelmed and shocked to be named to the top 15 and has received many messages of support from women around the world.
"This is a big win for us you know I’m the first to do this and I’m hoping to see more Muslim women wearing burkinis and being celebrated. I’m just challenging you to be outgoing and just do your best in everything that you do," said Aden.
The winner of Miss Minnesota USA is Meridith Gould, of Minneapolis. She will go on to compete in the nationally-televised Miss USA pageant next year.