Aden wore a hijab, a traditional Muslim headpiece, for the entire pageant, which made history in and of itself. But according to the Star Tribune, the St. Cloud State University student made history again during the pageant's swimsuit contest, when she wore a burkini, a full-body bathing suit which covers everything from the neck down.
While most of the 44 other women in the pageant wore revealing bikinis, Aden's burkini made waves. "Halima is bilingual. She speaks fluent English and Somali, and history is her favorite subject. She’s making history tonight," the pageant's executive co-director Denise Wallace announced while Aden walked across the stage. Aden was welcomed with huge applause from the audience.
Aden wasn't the only Somali-American woman at the pageant. Muna Ali, 20, also competed, but she wore a traditional bikini.
Aden also wore her hijab during the evening gown portion, during which she received another "round of big cheers."
Aden didn't win the competition, but she made it to the semifinal round of 15 on Sunday before ultimately failing to advance to the final five.
The Somali-American was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, before she and her family moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota when she was 6. Aden had never competed in pageants before, but she wanted to use the opportunity to change misconceptions that some people have about Islam and Somalia.
"I thought for a very long time that I had to conform or maybe change the way I look, or maybe the hijab was dimming my beauty," Aden told CBS. "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. It just made me even more prouder to wear it."
Aden's unapologetic fashion choice comes at a time when Muslim Americans are facing a wave of hate crimes and the president-elect is considering a Muslim registry.
"I just want to go on as myself," Aden told the Star Tribune. "When you have a lot of women in our state that do wear the hijab, we should be able to see that everywhere."