November 26, 2016 11:47 PM
A Minnesota teenager has made history.
Nineteen-year-old Halima Aden is the first Somali-American to participate in the Miss Minnesota USA competition.
She's extremely excited, and tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that it's not about winning, she says just being a contestant is already sending a positive message.
But the road for Aden hasn't been easy.
"I was born in a Kenyan refugee camp, and I left when I was six years old," said Halima Aden, a contestant in the Miss Minnesota USA competition.
But in the years since she's been in the U.S., the struggle continues with images of Islamophobia and backlash against Somali-Americans is still happening today.
"The people that are doing bad things, they don't represent an entire group," Aden said.
That's why she's proud to represent where she's from, especially on a grand stage.
"I feel like I'm here to bust those misconceptions and stereotypes of Muslim women," Aden said.
Vying for Miss Minnesota USA, just like every woman, Halima wears four different outfits.
"This is a girl's best dream," Aden said.
Only she will compete in a hijab and a burkini, a swimsuit covering everything but her face, hands, and feet.
"Even Somali people are not familiar with the word burkini," Aden said.
Organizers say the decision to allow this was an easy one.
"The organization continues to evolve as women evolve," said Denise Wallace, the director of Miss Minnesota USA and Miss Minnesota Teen USA. "The Miss Universe organization is proud to be the forefront of the diversity of beauty," she said.
While making history, the St. Cloud State student is also making connections.
"The ladies are so wonderful," Aden said.
Even past winners are giving her pointers and having some fun at the same time
"They teach you everything you need to know here so that just kind of eased my nerves a lot," Aden said. "Just being here is amazing," she says.
When this year's winner is announced, Halima says she's working for much more than a crown, rather the impact she has on others.
"A lot of girls were very supportive of what I'm doing, and that just makes it all worth it and my advice to them is just be confident in your own skin, know that an extra layer of clothing does not define your beauty, because beauty is within," Aden said.
Halima says after she graduates she hopes to one day be a U.S. ambassador.
The first part of the pageant kicked off Saturday and the winner is announced Sunday night.
Updated: November 26, 2016 11:47 PM
Created: November 26, 2016 07:38 PM
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