Miss World Somalia, Khadija Omar, was born and raised in Hagadera Refugee Camp in Nairobi, before moving to Canada in 2010.
The psychology student and make-up artist, who is the eldest daughter in a family of five, has come a long way since then.
Today, she is the first hijabi Miss World contestant and the first Miss Somalia.
One of her biggest role models in life is her mother, who is always “herself”, Omar tells The National.
“Another role model for me are the hijabi girls who have become big in the past years, like Halima Aden,” she says. “If she can do it, I can do it, too.”
Somali-American model Aden made history in 2016 when she became the first hijabi woman to enter Miss Minnesota USA.
But Omar, 20, who has 50,000 followers on Instagram and counting, has a huge passion for pageantry and has gone one better than her idol with her title in Miss World.
When she told her family that she will be the first Miss Somalia and would participate in Miss World 2021, she says her mother was so stunned she didn’t believe her.
“My family always knew I loved pageants because I was talking about it for five years,” she says. “I am really happy because it is something I have always been dreaming of doing.”
Her enthusiasm couldn’t temper her nerves, however. “I was scared because I thought that I was not prepared as other girls because there are girls who have been training years to do this.
“I said, ‘I know who I am, I know what I represent, so I just have to go there and just be me and it will be amazing.’”
A major motivational factor for Omar is her pride in her country. “I want to make sure I represent my people right and that I make them proud and do my best.”
The Miss World finals have not been without drama, though, as they were postponed to March 16 from December after several Covid-19 infections were detected during the preliminary rounds of the pageant.
See photos of Miss World contestants in Puerto Rico before the pageant was delayed:
That meant Miss World Toni-Ann Singh’s reign as the longest title-holder in history has been extended even further. Singh, who is Miss Jamaica World 2019, was crowned Miss World that same year, but held on to her title after the event was cancelled in 2020 owing to the pandemic.
Omar says it was hard at the pageant, which is taking place in Puerto Rico, since she couldn’t have her family with her. It remains to be seen whether that will still be the case in March.
Despite the setbacks and the restrictions around the world, Omar says, “If we come together we can do so much.”
Once Miss World is over, she plans to start a make-up brand called K Amani and an organisation to help young girls in Somalia.
“Make-up has been something I have always been into,” she says.
Her brand, which was inspired by the lack of complexion diversity in the make-up industry, will, she says, help her give back to her community.
“It was hard having to find foundations that were pigmented enough for our skin tone.
“Coming from a refugee camp, when I was young I always knew I wanted to go back and help in some way.”