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Meet Halima Aden, the First Miss Minnesota USA Contestant to Wear a Hijab and Burkini

Halima Aden, a Somali-American teen, isn’t your average pageant girl — and she’s not ashamed about it. In fact, instead of donning a sparkly ball gown and a skimpy bikini to compete, the young Muslim woman wore a traditional hijab and burkini throughout the Miss Minnesota USA pageant on November 26.

Related: PHOTOS: Miss America 2017 Top 15: See Their Bikini Body Photos

“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, who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp, told Minneapolis’ Kare 11.

Related: PHOTOS: Miss America 2016 Bikini Bodies Pictures

Her beauty was certainly evident to all onlookers at the competition. Liz Sawyer, a Star Tribune writer, tweeted that Aden received roaring applause from the crowd when she took the stage in her navy blue embroidered burkini during the swimsuit segment. She teamed the number with a golden-colored headscarf and high-heeled booties. 

Related: PHOTOS: Miss America 2015 Bikini Bodies Pictures

And for the formalwear portion, the St. Cloud State freshman looked as lovely as a rose in a black-and-red gown featuring a skirt printed with blooms. "I feel like I'm here to bust those misconceptions and stereotypes of Muslim women," Aden said to ABC 5.

Though Aden didn’t take home the crown, she did make it to the top 15 — and she knows that her competing meant more than a title. She told the Star Tribune that she received grateful messages from parents and young women who have been bullied for their religious wear. “That’s made me so proud to be a part of this,” she said. “Just give it a try. You might not win, but maybe the fifth, sixth girl will win. Don’t let anything get in the way.”

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