SI Swim Legends Leyna Bloom, Roshumba Williams on the Power of Diversity, Inclusion

Both history-making women returned to the fold for the franchise’s 60th anniversary.
Leyna Bloom and Roshumba Williams
Leyna Bloom and Roshumba Williams / Santiago Felipe/Getty Images and Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

SI Swimsuit legends Roshumba Williams and Leyna Bloom shared a powerful, moving discussion as they celebrated the launch of the brand’s 60th anniversary issue in Hollywood, Fla., last month.

Bloom, who made history as the first transgender model to appear on the front of the SI Swimsuit Issue, and Williams, who made her debut in 1990, becoming the franchise’s first Black model ever, chatted about how SI Swimsuit has always championed diversity.

“The last decade of Sports Illustrated [Swimsuit], the doors of inclusivity [and] representation have flown open. It’s so nice and so sweet to be here at this time,” Williams gushed to Bloom, who agreed wholeheartedly.

“Ten years ago, things were very different. To see all of us come through so elegantly, all different sizes, shapes, ages, all different walks of life... you’ve seen it evolve,” the Port Authority star agreed.

Both Bloom and Williams starred in an iconic 60th anniversary legends photo shoot with Yu Tsai in Hollywood, Fla., earlier this year, posing alongside 25 other incredible franchise stars who have impacted the world (and the brand) in some way.

“Thank goodness for MJ [Day, editor in chief] and Yu Tsai and the Sports Illustrated [Swimsuit] team for recognizing that beauty, elegance and sexy does not have an age. We’re not past our prime,” Williams applauded. “To see the women who are in their 70s and 80s still being celebrated in this magazine is massive, and it means so much not only for the women who are experiencing it, but for their daughters, granddaughters, sons and grandsons [who are] looking up to them and thinking, ‘Oh yes, my grandmother is a beautiful, elegant woman. She’s classy, and she’s in Sports Illustrated [Swimsuit], and that’s acceptable.’ It’s wonderful.”

Williams noted that when she first got the call to participate in the legends photo shoot, she didn’t really think about the impact the feature was going to have on the industry and other elder, Black women. She was mostly thinking about her younger self and how proud that little girl would be of her current self.

“There [was] always that like, secret hope that maybe one day [landing on the cover] could happen for me. [This is for] that little girl back in 1989, with the little short hair and the dark skin,” she said.

Williams is genuinely proud of the industry’s progress that she has had a front row seat to witness. But, there’s always room for more, and there’s no time like the present.

“In the next 10 years, I just really hope that we continue to double down on what we've accomplished as far as inclusivity and the diversity,” she said. “I feel my legacy is a trailblazing and nurturing and just being there for the next generation to look up to.”

Bloom, on the other hand, shared that a video she watched as a child of Williams and Tyra Banks (who was SI Swimsuit‘s first Black cover model) walking down a runway “like goddesses” will forever live rent free in her mind.

“Growing up as a young brown skin child in society [and] seeing that, and [you two] also in Sports Illustrated [Swimsuit], also in beauty campaigns, also affiliated with fashion and also have a brain... [was] powerful,” Bloom gushed. “I’m just so happy that I was able to see that masterpiece.”

Published |Modified
Ananya Panchal