She’s just made history by gracing the pages of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue as the magazine’s first black and Asian transgender model.
And Leyna Bloom couldn’t be prouder. “I never imagined that I would be born in a time when something like this would happen for someone with my skin tone and for someone with my background,” the 27-year-old activist, dancer and model told Good Morning America.
Sports Illustrated praised their latest cover star in a glowing statement. “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,” the magazine said.
“Her story represents one grounded in resilience and we couldn’t be more thrilled to help her tell it.”
The New York-based beauty has also been breaking ground in other areas. She was the first transwoman of colour in a leading role in a movie featured at a major film festival. Her debut film, Port Authority, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019.
Lenya is also one of only a few trans models who has strutted her stuff down the runways of New York Fashion Week and was the first transwoman of colour to feature in Vogue India.
Certainly life has come with plenty of challenges for the model.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2019, she spoke about how she ended up being homeless at 17.
She’d earned a dance scholarship at The Chicago Academy for the Arts but had just started to transition to female.
In an effort to keep her scholarship, which was for a male dancer, she shaved her hair and began presenting as male again – but she didn’t feel right as she wasn’t being her “authentic self”.
When the school refused to let her dance as a female, she dropped out and moved to New York where she says she slept on subway trains for several weeks. Eventually she started to land modelling gigs and her life did a 360-degree turnaround.
To date some of her high-flying campaigns have included one for H&M x Moschino opposite Gigi Hadid.
The 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition is only out in July, but the magazine has been proudly showcasing its models on Instagram. In a switch to embracing women of all shapes, sizes and colours, they’ve also included a curvy YouTube star and a Covid-19 nurse.
Sources: dailymail.co.uk, Instagram