Trends: Muslim Firsts in Popular Culture

Halima Aden covering 'CR Fashion Book' (CR Fashion Book)

Halima Aden covering ‘CR Fashion Book’ (CR Fashion Book)

Recently, Muslims in the U.S. have gained prominence in a series of firsts in mainstream culture.

Last year, Halima Aden competed in the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant. Aden wears hijab, and wore a burkini during the swimsuit portion of the event. Though she didm’t win the title, people took notice of her, especially the fashion industry. IMG Models recently signed Aden, who’s now their first hijabi model. (It’s important to note that while Aden is the first hijabi model for the company, she is not their first Muslim model.) Aden recently appeared on the cover of CR Fashionbook, where the headline cemented her one-name-only status (similar to that of Iman, who interviewed Aden for the issue).

Earlier this week, actor Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Moonlight.” This wasn’t a surprise: Ali had been winning awards at all of the awards running up the Oscars. But Ali is the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award. He spoke about converting to Islam in his acceptance speech for male actor in a supporting role at this year’s SAG Awards, where he warned against letting the minutia of differences overtake the similarities.

Hopefully this exposure normalizes Muslims for people who may not have met one in person. I hope this is just the start of more prominent Muslims in pop culture to come.

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Ashley Graham is First Plus-Size Model to Cover British “Vogue”

Ashley Graham's January 2017 Vogue U.K. cover (Vogue UK)

Ashley Graham’s January 2017 Vogue U.K. cover (Vogue UK)

Model Ashley Graham is busting boundaries left and right. Earlier this year, she covered Maxim and the coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Now, she’s landed the cover of the fashion bible of the U.K., the British version of Vogue. Shot by famed photographer Patrick Demarchelier, Graham’s cover will be for the January 2017 issue.

Graham is a plus-size model, so her covering these storied publications shows that the fashion industry is coming around to including a wider variety of body types. Let’s hope American Vogue sees this, and follows suit.

Graham’s cover for British Vogue arrives on newsstands today.

Elle’s Women in TV List Is Most Diverse Ever

Priyanka Chopra, %22Elle%22 (Tribune)

Priyanka Chopra, “Elle” (The Express Tribune)

Fashion magazine “Elle” doesn’t exactly have the best track record in terms of showcasing diverse women. Over the years, they’ve lightened Gabourey Sidibe’s skin, and photographed Mindy Kaling in close-up. (Incidentally, Kaling was photographed for a cover of the Women in TV list for 2014.) But it looks like they’re finally getting it: The magazine’s 2016 Women in TV list is its most diverse yet, and three of its five cover stars are women of color.

Taraji P. Henson (from FOX’s “Empire”), Viola Davis (ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder”), and Priyanka Chopra (ABC’s “Quantico”) each received their own special cover. And none are in closeup or otherwise “hidden.”

This is heartening step forward for non-white women to see themselves represented and recognized in mainstream fashion magazines. I certainly hope it lasts and grows from here.