>The swimsuit portion of the Miss USA pageant has always seemed like a mainstay. So when 19-year-old Halima Aden decided she wanted to compete in a pretty untraditional way, she didn't expect the institution to allow her to go against the norm. But we’re glad they did. And this past weekend, Aden, a Muslim resident of St. Cloud, was the first beauty pageant contestant to wear a burkini on the Miss Minnesota USA stage.
Instead of a standard two-piece, Aden took to the stage in a modest and fully covered blue ensemble, complete with a hijab. “I thought this was the perfect time to represent myself as a Muslim woman and encourage other girls to live their life with conviction and not to be scared,” Aden, a Kenya-born Somali native, told NPR.
>The pageant representatives doubled down on their support for Aden in an email, telling us "the decision of Future Productions, official producers of the Miss Minnesota USA state preliminary pageant, to allow Halima to wear a swimsuit that would be deemed acceptable by her culture and that she would be comfortable wearing on stage is in line with the values of the Miss Universe Organization in empowering women to be confidently beautiful."
>Even though Aden didn't win the ultimate prize of the competition, she’s definitely earning major praise from those inside and outside of her Muslim community. And she's ultimately opened the doors for many other girls to follow in her footsteps.
>Scroll down for a look at Aden's burkini and eveningwear competition looks.