Actor and model Leyna Bloom has made history as the first trans woman of colour to be featured in Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue.
Bloom, who is Black and Filipino, told The New York Times that she wanted to use her appearance in the highly-anticipated issue as a platform for activism and highlight trans representation.
She is only the second trans model to be a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Last year, the magazine featured Valentina Sampaio, a Brazilian model who was the first trans woman to appear in the issue.
Bloom posed in 12 different one-piece suits for the groundbreaking shoot. In a post on Instagram, she said the idea that she would be featured as part of the issue told her that she deserves “to be cherished”. She said Sports Illustrated swimsuit “supports my womanhood”.
The magazine also posted a behind the scenes video on Instagram of the gorgeous photoshoot alongside an interview with Bloom as their new model.
Leyna Bloom has worked with illustrious fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger, H&M and Levi’s. She has also been featured in Vogue India and started as a trans woman in the indie drama Port Authority.
She told The New York Times over a phone call that she was “mentally shaken” by the news that she would be in Sports Illustrated.
“The idea that they were giving me this chance – I couldn’t take it,” Bloom said. “Two weeks later, I was on set.”
She explained that she wanted to use her appearance in the issue to promote “something that has been missing in the world: trans beauty in all shapes and all sizes”. Bloom said people picking up the issue will see her as a “vessel of change”.
“I’m representing Filipina, I’m representing Black, I’m representing people who have been immigrants,” she said.
But most of all, she said she wanted people to see that her “autonomy” and “anatomy” are “beautiful”. Bloom explained: “I want people to see that, and to see that you can be respected, appreciated and loved regardless of your body shape, sexuality and the colour of your skin.”
She also shared that it was difficult for her growing up trans on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. Bloom said she was raped as a child and has dealt with being “fetishised my entire life”. But she said her sexuality is the “reason I survived in society”, adding she now sees it as an “art form”.
“I think of myself as a third sex,” Leyna Bloom said. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more in tune with both my masculine and feminine energies.”