Who is Leyna Bloom? All about the first trans woman to feature on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover

Leyna Bloom creates history as the first trans woman to be featured on Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit cover (image via Instagram/Leyna Bloom)
Leyna Bloom creates history as the first trans woman to be featured on Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit cover (image via Instagram/Leyna Bloom)
Barsha Roy

Leyna Bloom has created history by being the first transgender woman to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. She is also the first African-American and Filipino trans person to appear on the acclaimed cover.

Bloom took to Instagram to share the magazine cover, calling it a “powerful” moment:

“I have dreamt a million beautiful dreams, but for girls like me, most dreams are just fanciful hopes in a world that often erases and omits our history and even existence. This moment is so powerful because it allows me to live forever even after my physical form is gone.”

She further dedicated the cover to all “ballroom femme queens” with the hashtag “girls like us”:

“I dedicate this cover to all ballroom femme queens past, present and future. This historical moment is important to #girlslikeus because it allows us to live and be seen. Many girls like us don’t have the chance to live our dreams, or to live long at all. I hope my cover empowers those, who are struggling to be seen, feel valued.”

Leyna Bloom has been featured in one of SI’s three empowering covers for its 2021 edition. The other two covers feature tennis star, Naomi Osaka and hip hop singer, Megan Thee Stallion.

The latest cover has been conceptualized by Sports Illustrated’s Editor-in-Chief MJ Day. Meanwhile, Bloom has been photographed by celebrity photographer, Yu Tsai.

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Who is Leyna Bloom?

Leyna Bloom is a model, actor, activist and dancer. Born to an African-American father and a Filipina mother in Chicago, the model later moved to New York. She decided to transition early in her life and the decision was supported by her father.

Bloom is a professional hip hop, jazz, ballet, lyrical, tap and vogue dancer. At the age of 14, she performed at the American Ballet Theater alongside Misty Copeland. She also received a scholarship from the Chicago Academy for the Arts but left for New York to pursue her dream career.

Leyna Bloom faced a lot of hardships to survive in New York. She was reportedly working at a restaurant by day and performing in the underground ballroom scene at night. She gained popularity in the community as the “Polynesian Princess.”

Leyna Bloom came out on the 2014 cover of CANDY Magazine that featured 14 trans women. She came under the spotlight after walking for Chromat during 2017 New York Fashion Week. She also made history by becoming the first African-American trans woman to appear in Vogue India the same year.

She made news by advocating for the viral campaign to be included in Victoria’s Secret Fashion show as an openly trans woman. Leyna Bloom went on to be a part of the H&M x Moschino campaign alongside Gigi Hadid, Stella Park and Soo Joo Park among others.

In October 2018, Leyna Bloom was named one of the “6 Women Who Are Shaping the Future of Fashion” by Glamour. The following year she became the only African-American trans woman to walk at Paris Fashion Week for Tommy Hilfiger x Zendaya.

Leyna Bloom was cast opposite Fionn Whitehead in the 2019 American-French drama film, Port Authority produced by Martin Scorsese. As part of the project, she also became the first trans woman of color to represent a leading role in a film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019.

Also Read: Who is Mj Rodriguez? All about the first trans woman to receive a nomination in Lead Acting category at the Emmys 2021

Leyna Bloom on being featured in the historic magazine cover

Leyna Bloom was reportedly at the DonCeSar hotel at St. Pete’s Beach in Florida to shoot for the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover. She was reportedly joined by Tyra Banks at the magazine reveal.

Bloom had reportedly grown up being inspired by Tyra Banks, the first African-American woman to have a solo cover in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. According to Vogue, the model began her journey towards history after meeting MJ Day last year:

“MJ is truly an angel; she represents love, light, and inspiration. She isn’t just looking for a perfect model. She wants people from different backgrounds with different stories to tell, of all sizes, shapes, and from all walks of life.”

Leyna Bloom also opened up about her feelings on receiving the historic cover for the first time:

“It just felt so seminal yet sexy. I wanted to be in what I was most comfortable in, so I’m in a one-piece. It’s the kind of suit Meghan Markle or Michelle Obama would wear to the beach! I wanted to be that girl ordering tacos on the beach, feeling the vibe, and not worrying about anything [because] she’s comfortable and being herself—that’s the girl I wanted to represent.”

In an interview with Page Six, the model talked about being a part of history:

“This is not my first time making history, and this is probably not going to be my last. I want to just go out in the world and not limit myself. The world is changing and people need to see the fact that, wow, this is the beginning of it. This is what it looks like, and it’s so beautiful.”

Leyna Bloom also mentioned that it was the beginning of her journey with the magazine. On the acting front, she recently appeared on Netflix’s popular series, Pose. She is also set to appear in the action-thriller film, Asking for It which is slated to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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Edited by Siddharth Satish
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