Somali-American Halima Aden is breaking down barriers, becoming the first fully covered Muslim woman to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant.
The 19-year-old told the Star Tribune that her goal is to provide a counter-narrative to the idea that Muslim women are oppressed.
"The hijab is a symbol that we wear on our heads, but I want people to know that it is my choice. I’m doing it because I want to do it,” Aden told the Star Tribune.
Halima Aden, 19, made history this weekend by being first woman to compete in Miss Minnesota USA in hijab and burkini. Congrats to Halima! pic.twitter.com/bV4dW5QNag— Courtney Godfrey (@courtneygodfrey) November 28, 2016
Beyond being the first contestant to sport a hijab throughout the pageant, the teen also opted for a full-body bathing suit, often referred to a burkini.
She did so to make sure she didn't compromise any of her values to compete.
"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 NBC affiliate KARE.
Aden was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and moved to Waite Park, a suburb of St. Cloud, Minnesota, when she was six years old, according to the Huffington Post.
Minnesota is home to a large Somali community, but still, Aden said she rarely saw positive representations of Muslim women.
Aden told the Star Tribune the competition was her chance to empower other "women to be confidently beautiful."