Tearing down barriers is nothing new for Leyna Bloom. After getting her start in the ballroom dance community, she became the first transgender woman of color to appear in Vogue India. In addition, she was the only transgender model to walk the runway at 2019 Paris Fashion Week. Plus, in 2021, Bloom was the first transgender cover model in SI Swimsuit history. The model, actress, dancer and activist says she wouldn’t be the powerful woman she is today if it weren’t for the strong Black women in her life. We recently checked in with Bloom after her historic year.
Your SI Swimsuit cover was groundbreaking. What do you think it meant for representation?
“Honestly, growing up, I would see so many women from all different walks of life that really didn’t fit in this blue-eyed, blonde-hair, very-thin stereotype. I felt that the women around me who raised me were also beautiful, intelligent and powerful. But they really never got a chance to be seen in such a beautiful light. So I thought it was important for me to dream big and decided to be part of organizations willing to have this moment and take it into the new generation. There are a lot of heavy-hitting brands out there that showcase evolution, and I want to align myself with those ideologies. So here I am, a Black woman, an Asian woman, also a trans woman, who comes from a very poor, low-class lifestyle community, and I was like, How am I going to get to this point where I can represent my people all at the same time? Asian people are being beaten up while Black people and trans women are being murdered. So I represent all three things happening in the world right now. And I also represent the idea of women that are not just beautiful but also are intelligent.”
Why is that representation so important to you?
“I didn’t just want to be beautiful but also communicate my beauty differently. I want to put crowns on everything that the world says is not amounting to anything in society. I want to change the narrative and put people that look like me and come from my community in positions of power. This is not just another girl out there in a bra or swimsuit. This is a woman having a purpose, one who can sit and communicate, and also understand the duality of femininity and masculinity and how we can communicate that into the future.”
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What response did you get after your cover?
“There was a magnitude of many different people from many different walks of lives. This energy’s happening in the world, and people can feel that. They felt that someone like them was being seen. They saw what I was speaking about and were like, ‘That’s me, too! Thank you for speaking up.’ I think a lot of people know that the road is changing. It can be scary sometimes, but that’s really what challenges us as humans to evolve.”
So many people look up to you. Who do you look up to?
“When I got into fashion and entertainment, I was constantly drawn to very powerful women that challenged society like Josephine Baker. This black woman from the South moved to New York City on her own, then moved to Paris to just live out her dream of being a dancer and performer. And she completely changed the whole world, the idea of what femininity is and what sexuality is. I was also drawn to women like Angela Davis, who was just speaking out about Black people being murdered. And people like Michelle Obama, who stood by her man but also had a career. She is intelligent, powerful, loves fashion, loves being a good mother. Seeing those depictions of womanhood and Black women in the world encourages other Black women to go into the room and say, ‘I deserve more.’ And that makes me so proud to go out in the world and do what I want to do.”
You were raised by strong women, too.
“Yes, there are a lot of nameless faces out there, and these are the backbones of our world. And a lot of those women are Black women. I was raised by strong Black women who were survivors. They literally didn’t have an education or couldn’t go to the top colleges. But they got up every day and fought for their people and their children to have educations. That is the strength that breathes life into me that I want to breathe life into the nation.”
You've accomplished so much already. What’s next?
“I want to continue making history. I want to continue being in rooms where I can communicate with people. The most passion that I have is communicating with the next generation. I want to communicate by writing my own books or speaking at colleges, or maybe even going back to school and creating a school curriculum. I also want to continue being on covers and doing films. But I just want to give back in any way. So everything that I do has to be enriched in this idea that everyone is included. Everyone can sit down and time and speak to each other. We can all dream big, and we can do it together.”