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Why I love my hijab: 'It makes me feel like me'

As the first Miss Teen USA contestant to wear a hijab and a burkini in the competition, Halima Aden wants to clear a few misconceptions.
Halima Aden Competes in Hijab at Miss Minnesota USA Pageant
Halima Aden opens up about why she loves wearing a hijab.Future Productions
/ Source: TODAY

Halima Aden is one of our 2018 TODAY Style Heroes. Click here to see the full list!

The model and former Miss Minnesota USA contestant who was the first wear a hijab and burkini in the competition. As a practicing Muslim, the 19-year-old student says she is proud to wear the traditional headscarf.

There's a misconception that when Muslim women wear a hijab, it's a sign of oppression. I'd love to clear that up.

When I first started wearing the religious headscarf, I was excited. I remember admiring my mother’s when I was a child, so I was eager to emulate her beauty and every other wonderful quality she represented to me.

It just felt right.

As a child, Aden was excited to begin wearing a hijab.
Halima Aden started wearing a hijab at 8 years old and remembers feeling excited to emulate her mother's style.Courtesy of

But once I started middle school, that enthusiasm and pride turned to resentment as I became more aware of how others viewed my race and background. Other students would frequently tease and taunt me. They even started rumors that I didn't have hair underneath the hijab.

To prove them wrong, I started showing my hair and going against my beliefs. It was something I felt pressured to do just to fit in. Sadly, the one thing that truly represented who I was, was the one thing I was beginning to resent the most.

RELATED: Halima Aden wears hijab and burkini in Miss Minnesota USA pageant

While that experience was tough, it taught me how to become a better person. I think it's fair to say that I struggled to find my identity, but I've learned to love myself and hold my cultural and religious upbringing dear, no matter what others around me say or think.

There are a lot of reasons why I love my hijab — the symbolism, the meaning, the tradition — but most of all, it makes me feel like me when I wear it.

Halima Aden models for Sherri Hill
The former Miss Minnesota USA contestant models a prom dress in a shoot for Sherri Hill.Fadil Berisha

In November 2016, I decided to display my hijab on a grand stage while competing to become Miss Minnesota USA. The pageant officials welcomed me to dress in a way that made me feel confidently beautiful. I was delighted that my wardrobe was so fully supported by the organization and other contestants, but I was most humbled when the crowd erupted in applause for me during the competition.

That moment opened so many doors for me.

As I begin to make my mark in the world of fashion, I hope to spread a message of acceptance and inclusion. We should never make anyone feel lesser because of what they choose to wear — whether it be for religious beliefs, personal preference, style or otherwise.

We are all uniquely beautiful and should be fearless when it comes to dressing in a way that is most representative of who we are inside. I have been so overjoyed by the outpouring of support I have received from people around the world who are inspired by my commitment to being the most authentic version of myself.

Halima Aden models for Sherri Hill
Aden poses in another look for a Sherri Hill prom campaign.Fadil Berisha

While I never thought I had a place in the fashion industry (since I never saw women who looked or dressed like me on television or on magazine covers) I am proud to say that I have now graced the cover of an international magazine, signed with a top modeling agency and walked some of the most notable runways — all while wearing my hijab!

If I could talk to my middle school self, I would tell her not to worry. That same dedication to faith that makes her feel small will one day be commended by people of all different backgrounds around the globe.