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Model Halima Aden has announced that she is quitting the runway life after losing touch with her own reality while navigating the fashion industry.
The 23-year-old shared a series of childhood photos, fashion photoshoots on social media, noting that she was pressured to compromise her religious beliefs for her career.
As noted by PEOPLE, Aden is a Somali-American Muslim, whose family fled Kenya when she was a child. Aden was raised in Minnesota.
“I wish I never stopped bringing my black hijab to set,” she wrote. “Because the minute I got comfortable… well let’s just say I got too carried away.”
Aden continued, “But… this isn’t even my style?? Never was. Why did I allow them to put jeans on my head when at the time I had only ever worn skirts and long dresses?” she captioned a photo of her American Eagle campaign.
Aden made history as the first woman to wear a hijab at several runway shows, including the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She was also the first to wear a hijab and a burkini in Sports Illustrated‘s 2019 Swimsuit Issue.
Recalling a 2017 photoshoot for Glamour in which she wore a green wrap under her hijab and feathers around her neck, she wrote: “I went back to my hotel room and just sobbed after this shoot because deep down I knew this wasn’t it. But was too scared to speak up,” she wrote. “Also very common struggle when you are the FIRST to do something. Like what was that hideous green grass thing on my head?”
Aden said the coronavirus pandemic has allowed her to reflect on her career choices, writing, “As I’ve said many times being a minority inside of a minority inside of a minority is never easy.”
“Being a “Hijabi” is truly a journey with lots of highs & lows,” she continued. “With that said my hooyo macaan (mother) has been pleading with me for years to open my eyes. Thanks to Covid & the break away from the industry I have finally realized where I went wrong in my personal hijab journey.”
Aden goes on to note that it was her mother who urged her to quit modeling and put her Muslim faith first.
“My mom said “go correct it, you were good and blessed before fashion. THEY came to YOU. What are you scared of? Correct the mistake you made Publicly.. PUBLICALLY,”” Aden wrote
“I never felt more free & relieved. God damn Somali moms are so stubborn like why she wait all these years to say that! But also thank you Covid because being home with her has put back so much into perspective. I’m not rushing back to FASHION,” she continued.