Leyna Bloom first Black transgender woman to appear in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

Leyna Bloom is making history in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue, becoming the first Black and Asian transgender woman to appear in the magazine.

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The American model and actress from Chicago will appear in the weekly sports magazine when the swimsuit issue is published in July, CNN reported.

In a statement, Sports Illustrated praised Bloom’s “undeniable sense of self that shines through the minute she walks on set.”

It will be the second year that Sports Illustrated has featured a transgender model, The New York Times reported. Valentina Sampaio appeared in the magazine last year as the first, the newspaper reported.

In 1997, Tyra Banks became the first Black woman to have a solo cover featured on Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, CNN reported. Ashley Graham became one of the issue’s first plus-size cover models in 2016, and in 2019, Banks returned to become the publication’s oldest cover star at age 46.

The appearance in Sports Illustrated marks another barrier-breaking moment for Bloom.

She walked the Tommy Hilfiger runway alongside Zendaya and Grace Jones, has modeled for H&M, was featured in Vogue India, and appeared in a Levi’s ad campaign, the Times reported. Bloom also starred as a transgender woman in “Port Authority,” an indie drama that was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Bloom told the Times that she found out about appearing in the magazine in December.

“When we did the shoot, I told them: no bikinis, no strings, no thongs, no nudity,” Bloom told the newspaper. “I was going to wear a one piece, that’s what I feel most comfortable in. We shot 12 suits that day -- some flirty, some sexy, some really strong. Each one captured a different part of me.”

While the swimsuit issue has been criticized for reinforcing gender stereotypes, Bloom said it is a good vehicle now to showcase transgender models.

“This is a way of reaching the top of the food chain,” Bloom told the Times. “Let’s at least have this moment and say that we had it, and then we can go on to dismantle it.

“I’m promoting something that has been missing in the world: trans beauty in all shapes and all sizes. I’m representing Filipina, I’m representing Black, I am representing people who have been immigrants. For them, I’m a vessel of change.”