Actress, model, dancer, and activist Leyna Bloom is making history along with Sports Illustrated. She has become the first Black, Asian transgender woman on the cover of Swimsuit, the annual magazine published by Sports Illustrated.
Leyna was first announced as a 2021 rookie of the magazine back in March. But she had no idea that she would end up on the cover four months later. In fact, it was a surprise for her near the end of the interview with Tyra Banks, who was the first woman of color to appear on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover back in 1997.
“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,” Leyna writes in an Instagram post announcing her cover.
“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. 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.”
“Over a decade now, I’ve been photographing for [Sports Illustrated Swimsuit] [MJ Day] … This cover with [Leyna Bloom] is truly a historical and ground breaking moment! The first black [Asian] transgender model to grace the cover. I am honored and privileged to be part of the moment and captured her as we continue to highlight the importance of change, inclusion and diversity in all aspects of our lives!”
In 2014, Leyna first came out as transgender. It was during a photoshoot for C☆NDY Magazine cover feature on prominent trans women. In 2017, she walked the runway for the Chromat label during New York Fashion Week and became the first openly trans woman of color to appear in Vogue India.
In October 2018, it was announced that Leyna would star in Danielle Lessovitz’s first feature film Port Authority. In April 2019, the 2019 Cannes Film Festival announced that Port Authority would compete in the Un Certain Regard competition. It was the first film in the festival’s 72-year history to feature a trans woman of color in a leading role.
But things haven’t always been glamorous for Leyna. She had a difficult childhood and even spent some time homeless with her parents and brother. Her mother was deported to the Philippines, so her father raised her and her brother alone. He protected her and fully supported her decision to transition, and she says that he’s always been by her side.
Today, Leyna is who she’s always wanted to be. She hopes to open the door to many other trans models in the industry so they can work freely and live freely like she does today. “Knowing that history of where I come from, on the shoulders that I’m standing on, I have to do my part. I have to pay homage. I have to remind them. And that’s exactly what I did when I received the call that I was on Sports Illustrated.”
But in addition, Leyna also sees this opportunity to invite everyone to open their minds and hearts and to think differently:
“Honestly, me walking outside and me just being unapologetically myself makes people very nervous and that’s OK. There are things in this world that make me nervous, but they’re here. They have purpose and they deserve to be respected. And if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else. I’m here to just invite you to think differently. I’m here to give you an opportunity for you to just take a second out of your life, to just look left or look right. And if you don’t like what you see, you can turn your eye and that’s all I need.”
[via Yahoo! Life]