7 Hijabi Women Who Are Breaking The Glass Ceiling

World Hijab Day is on February 1 and in honor of the occasion, we celebrate the groundbreaking Muslim female athletes, politicians, musicians, and activists shattering glass ceilings. From Libyan-American journalist and activist Noor Tagouri to the first-ever hijab-wearing model Halima Aden, read on for the boundary-pushing hijabi women who continue to inspire.

Halima Aden

Photo: Sebastian Kim

The first chapters of Aden’s life story could not be further removed from the fashion industry. She was born in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, an arid, desolate space that’s home to more than 160 000 refugees. Soaring temperatures, disease, and no means of generating income or agricultural enterprise make it a harsh place to live. After relocating to the United States with her family when she was six, Aden would go on to make history as the first veiled contestant in the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant, before making her New York Fashion Week debut at Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 5. Bookings at Alberta Ferretti and Max Mara in Milan soon followed. She has gone one to land major campaigns and editorials, appearing as the cover star for Vogue Arabia’s June 2017 issue.

Nura Afia

Photo: Getty

In 2016, CoverGirl named Muslim beauty blogger Nura Afia an ambassador for the new So Lashy! BlastPro Mascara, making her not only the first hijab-wearing woman, but the first-ever Muslim figure to star in a campaign for the beauty brand. The Moroccan-American vlogger joined the ranks of other CoverGirl ambassadors, including Sofia Vergara, Halle Berry, and Katy Perry.

Neelam Hakeem

Neelam Hakeem, Vogue Arabia
Photos: Dillon Ivory, Marquis Henri.

At first glance, Neelam Hakeem, with her Instagram following of 300 000, may give the impression of being just another modest influencer, posing in brands like Dulce by Safiya, Culture Hijab, and Hayah Collection. Then you play one of her videos, and she starts rapping about everything from political and social injustices to women’s rights. In a matter of months, her lyrics, rapped to songs by Jaden Smith and Kanye West, have made impressive rounds on social media. Diddy, Will Smith, and Erykah Badu have all regrammed her songs.

Hala Kamil

Photo: Rex

Syrian refugee Hala Kamil is the subject of the Oscar-nominated short documentary Watani: My Homeland. She stepped out at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles red carpet in a custom velvet purple top and black skirt made by Brandon Maxwell, who was moved by her story. She completed the look with a lilac hijab draped around her head. The mother-of-four’s journey to the Oscars was certainly inspiring. She fled from war-ridden Aleppo to Germany with her family, and almost couldn’t make it to the Oscars due to President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban. With nothing to wear just 72 days before the 89th Academy Awards, a friend sent out a tweet, asking if anyone knew an LA-based designer who could help. The rest is history.

Zahra Lari

Zahra Lari
Courtesy of Nike.

As a Nike Pro Hijab ambassador, the first Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari has already succeeded in breaking the obvious #ArabFirst of being an professional ice skater hailing from this Middle Eastern country, and becoming a global household name to boot. Using her sphere of influence to send out positive messages to girls the world over to pursue their dreams no matter what obstacles they experience, we look ahead to see what Lari does next.

Ginella Massa

City News.

Ginella Massa is the first hijabi woman to anchor a major late-night newscast in Canada. But her first groundbreaking moment came two-years prior, when Massa landed her first on-air post at CTV News in Kitchener, Ontario, and became the first hijab-wearing television reporter in Canadian history. Her appointment was a massive stride for diversity and inclusion in North America.

Ibtihaj Muhammed

Ibtihaj Muhammad
Photo: Getty

When Ibtihaj Muhammad stepped into the fencing piste at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she made history as the first American athlete to compete in the games wearing a hijab. In 2017, the New Jersey native made headlines again when it was announced that she was the inspiration behind Mattel’s first hijab-wearing Barbie. In an interview with team Vogue.me before her 2016 Olympic win, Muhammad stated, “People told me that my goals weren’t attainable for whatever reason – especially when I was trying to achieve a feat that has never been done before – and that was discouraging.” Her message to the next generation of sporting stars of Muslim faith? “Never allow anyone to dictate your journey.”

Ilhan Omar

Portrait of Ilhan Omar.

After beating out five other candidates in September’s primary race to represent Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, the 35-year-old Democrat, who was born in Somalia before fleeing to America with her family aged 12, became the first African refugee and hijab-wearing woman to serve in Congress. Omar ran as her state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s nominee. The 35-year-old candidate took over the seat vacated by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim elected to the United States House of Representatives. The Somali-born Democrat, who grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before fleeing to America aged 12, also made history as the first African refugee and hijab-wearing woman to serve in Congress.

Noor Tagouri

Noor Tagouri Vogue Arabia
Photo: Andrew Day

Noor Tagouri is a hijab-wearing journalist and activist. Born in 1993 to Libyan parents in West Virginia, her family moved to Maryland, where she grew up and found her passion for journalism. “I just knew that I wanted to ask questions for a living,” she recounted to Vogue Arabia. Tagouri went on to study Broadcast Journalism at the University of Maryland at 16 years old, where she landed an internship at CBS radio a mere year into her studies. She is the brainchild behind a thought-provoking documentary series A Woman’s Job, which explores females working in male-dominated industries. Occupations include a female mechanic (who runs a beauty bar attached to her car shop), as well as the first and only female NFL coach.

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