The famed Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is breaking new ground this year with cover model Leyna Bloom, the first trans woman of color to appear in the magazine.
“I’m promoting something that has been missing in the world: trans beauty in all shapes and all sizes,” Bloom told the New York Times. “I’m representing Filipina, I’m representing Black, I am representing people who have been immigrants. For them, I’m a vessel of change.”
The model, who has also appeared in Vogue India, walked the Tommy Hilfiger runway alongside the likes of Zendaya and Grace Jones and appeared in high-profile campaigns for H&M and Levis, called the Sports Illustrated shoot “bigger than my wildest infinite dreams” in an Instagram post, adding, “This is what it looks like to be in full bloom, Thank you @si_swimsuit for allowing me to showcase my heavenly form. My spirit has reached new levels.”
However, while Bloom may consider the SI cover a dream come true, she is not blind to the magazine’s controversial legacy. Asked by the Times if the swimsuit issue — “which has long been criticized for reinforcing gender stereotypes” — is the best way to promote equality and diversity, Bloom said, “It’s one way. This is a way of reaching the top of the food chain. Let’s at least have this moment and say that we had it, and then we can go on to dismantle it.”
Bloom is the second trans woman to appear in the magazine, following Valentina Sampaio’s SI debut last year. (Sampaio also made history back in 2019 as the first trans model to appear in a Victoria’s Secret campaign.)
“My autonomy and my anatomy are beautiful. 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 color of your skin,” Bloom told the Times, adding that she also hopes to serve as a source of inspiration for trans children. “Up to now, it was strictly, ‘Oh, you’re trans so you cannot be a princess,’” she said. “But when we’re seen in these spaces — the runways, the magazines — trans children can look up and say, ‘This is what a princess looks like to me.’”
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