• Michael M

Halima Aden is the Chief Coconut Officer We Did Not Know We Needed

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Somali-American supermodel Halima Aden has joined the Vita Coco Project, the charitable arm of the coconut water company Vita Coco, as their “Chief Coconut Officer”. In the role Aden will act as the foundation’s global spokesperson and advocate, helping the project meet its social impact goals as they relate to coconut farming in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

In a Vita Coco press release, Halima explained the factors that brought her to the role, “Now more than ever, it’s really important to me to partner with brands that share my values. After I visited the coconut farms with Vita Coco last year, and saw the work that they do firsthand and the impact it has, I knew it was an organization that I wanted to be a part of. I personally understand what economic opportunity and education can do for a community, and I’m excited to help advance this important work.”

Aden’s background makes her acutely aware of issues like global poverty, conflict, and access to education. She was born in the Kakuma refugee camp in Nairobi, Kenya. Her family had arrived at the camp fleeing unrest in their native Somalia. At the age of 6, Aden and her family were able to move to the U.S., eventually settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Being Black, an immigrant, and Muslim made it hard for her to blend into the community. Still, Halima made conscious decisions to make the most of her opportunities, despite the circumstances. She became her community’s first hijabi homecoming queen and went on to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant. At the time she competed in the pageant for a chance at a scholarship to help pay for her education at St. Cloud State University.

She didn’t win the pageant, but her appearance in the pageant landed her national media attention, which resulted in a contract with IMG, a leading talent agency. From there, Aden went on to break barriers in fashion, as a hijabi model.

In 2018, Aden received perhaps her most important job to date: UNICEF Global Ambassador. The appointment brought her life full circle, as she had grown up in a UN refugee camp, and introduced Halima as a global humanitarian. In the position, Aden supports UNICEF’s mission of putting children first by building awareness and advocacy.

As the Chief Coconut Officer of the Vita Coco Project, Halima will be using those same skills to advance the project’s mission of positively impacting the lives of one million people in coconut farming communities. They plan to accomplish this goal by empowering farmers to grow sustainably, further developing the coconut industry thus spurring the local economy, and investing in schools and scholarships for community members. Aden will specifically curate special projects, among them a development fund and school access projects.

Talking to The Guardian Aden said “my career in fashion is not just, ‘I want to work with this brand, I want to get on that catwalk’ – we’re not sitting here talking about ‘Buy this heel, because this heel will make you feel sexy.’ I’m proud that I can say I combined fashion and activism. I can’t do one without the other.”

Aden’s background and outlook make her uniquely suited to support different brand’s charitable efforts. The phrase “corporate social responsibility”  is at times oxymoronic, so having a face like Halima’s leading the project lends credibility to these groups and also helps amplify their messages. In addition to her new position with the Vita Coco Project, she has served as an ambassador for Bottletop’s “#TogetherBand Campaign” which supports each of the UN’s 17 Global Goals.