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: