Leyna Bloom Is the First Trans Woman of Color in ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’ Issue

"I am a representation of all the communities I grew from, and all the communities I'm planting seeds in."

Model Lenya Bloom just made history as the first trans woman of color to appear in the famed Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Bloom, who is Black and Filipino, follows in the footsteps of Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio, the first trans woman to appear in the feature, yet is making her own way into the world of modeling and high fashion. Bloom has already walked the runway for Tommy Hilfiger and appeared in ad campaigns for Levi’s and H&M, and is carving out her career on her own terms.

“I told [Sports Illustrated]: no bikinis, no strings, no thongs, no nudity. I was going to wear a one piece, that’s what I feel most comfortable in,” she recalled to The New York Times on March 16th. “We shot 12 suits that day—some flirty, some sexy, some really strong. Each one captured a different part of me.”

Bloom hopes that her appearance in the upcoming magazine will let people see that “[her] autonomy and [her] anatomy are beautiful.” She told the Times, “I want people to see…that you can be respected, appreciated and loved regardless of your body shape, sexuality and the color of your skin.”

“This is what it looks like to be in full bloom,” Bloom wrote in the caption of her March 16th Instagram post showing off her SI feature image. “Thank you @si_swimsuit for allowing me to showcase my heavenly form…This moment is bigger than my wildest infinite dreams.”

She continued, In this moment, I am a representation of all the communities I grew from, and all the communities I’m planting seeds in.

“Leyna is legendary in the world of activism, strikingly gorgeous and has an undeniable sense of self that shines through the minute she walks on set,” Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue Editor MJ Day said of Bloom in a March 16th Instagram post. “Her story represents one grounded in resilience and we couldn’t be more thrilled to help her tell it.”

“Her presence as the first trans woman of color to be in our issue is a result of her lifetime dedication to forging her own path that has led to acceptance, love and change,” Day continued. “She represents every person’s right to love themselves and be who they want to be.”

“I’m promoting something that has been missing in the world: trans beauty in all shapes and all sizes,” Bloom told the Times when asked if she fears critique. “I’m representing Filipina, I’m representing Black, I am representing people who have been immigrants. For them, I’m a vessel of change…I think I’m revolutionary. I relate to X-Men but even with X-Men, some people hate you because you’re unique.”

You can see Bloom and her fellow SI Swim 2021 peers when the issue drops in July.

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