BURNSVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — For the first time, a fully-covered Muslim contestant is participating in the Miss Minnesota USA competition.
Nineteen-year-old Halima Aden from St. Cloud is competing in the pageant happening Saturday and Sunday in Burnsville.
The winner will go on to the national stage to represent the entire state of Minnesota in the Miss USA Competition.
Aden spoke to WCCO as she prepared for the preliminary competition Saturday night.
“I thought for a very long time that I had to conform or maybe change the way I look,” Aden said, “or maybe the hijab was dimming my beauty.”
Aden traveled a unique path to the competition.
Born in a refugee camp in Kenya, the Somali-American and her family spent most of her childhood in St. Cloud.
Aden has not competed in pageants before but said she saw the Miss Minnesota USA stage as an opportunity to change misconceptions some people have about Islam and the Somali community.
Aden said she has had great experiences growing up in Minnesota for the most part.
“There is a small percent of people who have hate in their hearts,” Aden said. “I think part of the problem is they’re not interacting with people who are Somali.”
Aden will compete in a her hijab, and wear a burkini during the swimsuit portion of the competition.
“I took a moment and then I realized, you know what, there’s a lot of girls who do wear this and this is their reality,” Aden said. “It just made me even more prouder to wear it.”
Highlighting her differences has not always been easy for Aden, but it has become an important part of recognizing what she hopes others will.
“There is not one description for beauty,” Aden said “It has different faces, different stories, different backgrounds, and it’s OK to embrace all of those.”
Aden is a student at St. Cloud State University.
The contestants had preliminary rounds Saturday night and they will find out who won after the competition Sunday night .