Leyna Bloom makes history as the first trans woman on the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’: ‘This is when the world changed’

Leyna Bloom is the first trans woman to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. (Photo: Yu Tsai/Sports Illustrated)

Leyna Bloom was celebrated as the first trans woman of color to appear in an issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit when the model was announced as a 2021 rookie from the magazine in March. But just four months later, Bloom takes the world by storm as the first trans woman to ever grace the magazine’s cover — an honor she bestows on women from marginalized communities who paved the way for her.

“I can live freely. I can live in the open air. The trans models and the trans bodies that have been in the entertainment industry couldn’t do that. They had to hide who they were so they could just eat so they just have a dream,” Bloom told Yahoo Life. “I know that history of where I come from, on the shoulders I stand on, I must do my part. I must pay tribute. I must remind them. And that’s exactly what I did when I got the call that I’m busy used to be Illustrated Sports.”

The 27-year-old spoke about the importance of her inclusion in the magazine as she teased her appearance on the pages. She explains that she even called the trans women and men who paved the way to thank them for an opportunity like this. Still, little did she know that she would represent her many identities on the magazine’s iconic cover.

“I am an embodiment of many different crossroads of life,” Bloom says, noting that she is a trans woman of black and Asian descent. “When we put down our phones and go out into the world, you see police brutality on the backs of black and brown bodies. You see Asian people getting hurt, being bullied, being harassed. You see transgender people appearing in dead-end alleys, you know, it is cold case after cold case. These are very, very serious topics. And if you take someone who represents all of that and says, we put this person on the cover because this is what we care about, not just beautiful, it empowers us really able to know that there is still good in the world.”

And while she can’t just represent each of these marginalized communities, Bloom is making sure she’s doing her part by giving them a voice.

“I’m so lucky to have the privilege, and I’m very privileged to have this opportunity because other trans people in the world don’t have the same privilege as I do,” she says. “They may not be able to have the conversation, but the fact that I’m there, I have to stand up for them. And I have to make sure people understand that we’re here and we deserve these opportunities, and I’m me I’m so lucky to have been born at a time where I can do that. It’s huge what we can do with this opportunity.”

Bloom also embraces the opportunity to open the hearts and minds of people around the world to the transgender community.

“Honestly, when I walk out and that I’m just impudent myself makes people very nervous and that’s OK. There are things in this world that make me nervous, but they are here. They have a purpose and they deserve it to be respected. And if you don’t like it, you can go elsewhere,” she says. “I’m here to invite you to think differently. I’m here to give you a chance to take a second of your life, to just look left or right. And if you don’t like it find what do you see, you can avert your eyes and that’s all I need.”

Sports Illustrated SwimsuitMJ Day’s editor-in-chief, MJ Day, tells Yahoo Life that the inclusion of Bloom in the 2021 issue titled “Opening Eyes, Speaking Truths, Changing Minds” is exactly that goal.

“Leyna is one of the most incredibly kind, caring, patient, dedicated, compassionate people,” Day says. “I don’t know how much Central America has ever had the chance to meet someone as special as she is. And once they do, they’ll see what’s so great about her.”

Bloom added: “In 50 years I want to look back and say, ‘This is the moment when the world changed. And this was a moment that somehow it changed. This was one of the moments that changed the world. It changed the way people thought.'”

And while this is just the beginning of what’s to come for trans representation, Bloom is full of hope.

“I see happiness, I see opportunities. I see that I come from a rich history of rich bloodlines full of people who breathe through me and I want to make them proud,” she says. “This is why I do what I do.”

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