Friday, July 23

Who Is Leyna Bloom? Meet the Groundbreaking 'Sports Illustrated' Model

Meet the latest trailblazer. Leyna Bloom made history as the first transgender model to land the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, and there’s so much more to know about the barrier-breaking beauty.

“This moment heals a lot of pain in the world. We deserve this moment; we have waited millions of years to show up as survivors and be seen as full humans filled with wonder,” Bloom, 27, wrote via Instagram alongside her cover image on Monday, July 19.

The Chicago native also honored those who identify as she does in the queer community. “I dedicate this cover to all ballroom femme queens past, present and future,” the actress, who appeared on FX’s ballroom drama Pose, added in her lengthy post. “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. Let me be a messenger guiding us to a future of respect and appreciation for all women in all forms and from all walks of life.”

Sports Illustrated had three separate covers for the famous Swimsuit edition in 2021. Megan Thee Stallion made history as the first rapper on an SI cover while tennis player Naomi Osaka became the first Haitian and Japanese cover model.

Bloom discovered she’d scored the coveted gig in December 2020, and she knew that she needed to set some ground rules for the sexy shoot. The issue is famous for showing skin, and Bloom’s boundaries ensured that she felt confident on camera.

“When we did the shoot, I told them: no bikinis, no strings, no thongs, no nudity,” she revealed to the New York Times in March. “I was going to wear a one-piece, that’s what I feel most comfortable in. We shot 12 suits that day — some flirty, some sexy, some really strong. Each one captured a different part of me.”

Her career is on fire, but the activist has been open about her struggles before finding success. The daughter of a military veteran and Filipina immigrant, she grew up in poverty — occasionally struggling with homelessness as a child. Her mother was eventually deported and her father had to raise her on his own.

“He protected me,” Bloom told Tyra Banks in an interview for SI. “He didn’t have the information. He didn’t know what to say. He just knew that I was his seed and he had to be the mother and father now.”

Though she was supported by family, the activist grew up with few role models she could identify with, and she hopes to change that for future generations.

“I don’t want to be a trend. I want to be taken seriously,” she told Time Magazine in June. “I would like my child to be born in a world where when they wake up, and they walk outside, they look left, or they look right, and they see people from all different walks of life. I want representation to be fluid, universal and heartfelt.”

Scroll through to learn more about rising star Leyna Bloom:

Who Is Leyna Bloom? Meet the Groundbreaking 'Sports Illustrated' Model who-is-leyna-bloom-meet-the-groundbreaking-sports-illustrated-model
She’s an Activist
Bloom has been on the front lines demanding change for many different minorities. Her Instagram is filled with photos from protests. One 2020 sign she held at a Black Lives Matter protest said: “I’m black. I’m afro-filipino. I’m trans and I just want to survive.”
Courtesy Leyna Bloom/Instagram
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She’s a Movie Star

Her first film, Port Authority, debuted at Cannes 2019. The actress also appeared on the final season of FX’s Pose as Pretentia Khan.


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She’s Made History Before

Bloom is used to being first. She was the first openly trans woman of color to lead a feature-length movie at Cannes or any major festival. In 2017, she became the first openly trans woman of color to feature in Vogue India, and she was the only trans model to walk the runway at Paris Fashion Week for Tommy Hilfiger x Zendaya’s Fall/Winter collection.

Andy Kropa/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

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She Left School After They Refused to Acknowledge Her Gender Identity

Bloom was almost a dancer after she earned a scholarship to the Chicago Academy for the Arts, but the institution refused to recognize as a woman. Bloom left her hometown for New York to chase her dreams.

Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

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