"That surreal & dreamlike feeling the moment you see yourself on the cover of @VogueArabia cannot be explained!"
That was the excited tweet Friday afternoon from St. Cloud model Halima Aden, 19, who appears on the cover of the glossy, high-end fashion magazine's June Middle Eastern edition in a glittering black and white dress and hijab.
"All eyes on Halima Aden: The runway star shattering stereotypes," the cover trumpets. "Past meets future to revolutionize your style," the secondary headline reads.
It's the first Vogue cover for Aden, who has previously been featured in the magazine's inside pages.
The magazine's online introduction also hails Aden's style and presence:
"In the June issue of Vogue Arabia, we focus on identity — from embracing it, like cover star Halima Aden, to reinventing it, like the young Arab designers breathing new life into traditional craftsmanship. Take a walk through an Old Dubai souk with perfumer Christopher Chong, who is celebrating 10 years with Omani brand Amouage, and visit the meticulously refurbished Paris manor of Sheikh Mohammed bin Fahad Al Thani. Designer Layla Moussa talks nostalgia and authenticity, two of the biggest stars of Ramadan TV, Nelly Karim and Hind Sabri, share their thoughts on fame, family, and fashion, and Jordan's HRH Princess Nissa Raad writes a moving letter to her artist grandmother, Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid, now the focus of a major retrospective at the Tate Modern in London. In his first letter as Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Arabia, Manuel Arnaut describes the interlinking themes of the June issue."
Of Aden, it says:
"In breezy florals and monochrome graphics, Halima Aden, Vogue Arabia's June issue cover star, is ready for her close-up. After Aden's first feature in Vogue Arabia in April, this is her debut cover for Vogue, in a shoot that sees her sporting Spring 2017 collections from maisons including Dior, Max Mara (aptly so, as the Italian brand booked her to walk its Fall 2017 runway show), and Norma Kamali, to name but a few. 'When I'm walking the runway I want people to see that, yes, I'm wearing a hijab — but I'm also a million other things. I want us to get to a place where we just see women,' Aden told Vogue Arabia in April.
"Here, we see the 19-year-old Somali-American growing in self-confidence and forging a path — on her own terms — as a beauty icon that settles before the fashion lens," it continues. "Watch Aden's message to Vogue Arabia readers above and see the behind-the-scenes film of the star on set with photographer Greg Kadel and fashion director Paul Cavaco for her fashion editorial, 'All Eyes on Halima.' "
A meteoric rise
Aden, who has worked as a room cleaner at the St. Cloud hospital, was discovered by modeling scouts last fall and swept up in the jet-setting world of high fashion.
In November, she sashayed her way to history as the first contestant in the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant to compete wearing a hijab and burkini. Although she didn't win the contest, the image of her megawatt smile and covered silhouette alongside women sporting swimsuits and flowing hair thrust her into a media spotlight that led to her being signed by international modeling agency IMG Models.
Her contract with IMG Models — the same agency that represents Gisele Bündchen and Kate Moss — is for three years with an automatic renewal.
Born in a Kenyan refugee camp, Aden and her family stood in long lines for water and had to barter for pots and pans and coal. Aden drank PediaSure in the camp because she was underweight. She grew accustomed to the taste and still drinks it.
When she was 7, her family joined the waves of Somali refugees resettling in the United States. Their first stop was St. Louis, where Aden struggled to acclimate. She couldn't speak English, and there was no program at her school for students learning English as a second language.
She called it "the worst time of my life." Every day she went to school and couldn't understand what was going on, she said. None of the other kids talked to her, leaving her feeling isolated.
It wasn't long before the family was on the move again — this time to St. Cloud, where Aden found friends and support from her teachers, who pushed her to learn English. By the time she entered Apollo High School, she was turning heads and breaking barriers.
Aden — whom friends describe as independent, self-motivated and daring enough to try things no one else will — put in her name for homecoming queen. She won, becoming the school's first Somali student to be crowned.
That same gumption led her to enter the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She said she wanted to prove it was possible to stay true to one's beliefs and participate in events such as a pageant.
"I did notice growing up that there are so many things, obstacles and things that people think you can't do because you're Muslim or because you're wearing a hijab," she told the Star Tribune in April. "You hear a lot of no's. That was something that I wanted to see change."
Staff writers Allie Shah and Pamela Miller contributed to this report.