Leyna Bloom is the first transgender woman of color to cover the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

“When they told me I got the cover, I spoke to my dad,” she told Page Six Style.

She said she found inspiration in 1997 when she saw Tyra Banks in a magazine laying on her father’s coffee table.

“I was like, ‘When I was looking at that magazine … I was looking into my future. You were giving me the tools I needed to see myself, to know that I could be there, that I could inspire, that one day I could be a part of this.'”

Banks was the magazine’s first solo black cover model. She celebrated when the Sports Illustrated editor-in-chief, MJ Day, told Bloom she would be a part of three of the magazine’s 2021 covers.

“This cover and this moment represent what it looks like in the future,” Bloom said.

Bloom and Banks have been keeping in contact ever since the news was revealed.

Bloom’s passion for modeling and movement came from her family. She pictured herself working in the fashion industry while she grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where her grandmother taught ballroom and runway classes.

“This is my bloodline, this is my ancestry, this is where I come from,” she said.

When Bloom turned 17, she went to New York. She got rejected several times for modeling jobs before being discovered a store in Soho. She eventually landed an appearance in Vogue India, campaigns for H&M and Levi’s, as well as a runway gig with Zendaya for Tommy Hilfiger.

“Being a person of trans experience growing up in the world, there was no representation of that [in fashion], so I felt like I could never do this,” she said.

“I think it [was] just putting myself out there, knowing that I was born in a world I didn’t fit in, so I have to create one that I do. I just wanted to be seen in the world and let people know that people like me do exist and we are beautiful.”

During her Sports Illustrated photoshoot, the model chose to wear one-piece swimsuits – like the high-cut white Gil Rodriguez maillot she used on her cover – over string bikinis.

“Trans women feel so comfortable in these one-pieces, so I want to represent them,” she said.

“I felt so confident every step of the way, and I don’t feel like that a lot of times when I’m on set shooting half-naked or in lingerie or even swimwear.”

Sports Illustrated has committed to casting a more diverse group of models for the Swimsuit Issue. In 2020, Valentina Sampaio was the first transgender woman to appear in the Swimsuit Issue.

This year’s issue also featured the first Asian curve model, Yumi Nu. 

“We just honestly have to keep moving,” said Bloom. “This is not my first time making history, and this is probably not going to be my last. I want to go out in the world and not limit myself.”

“The world is changing and people need to see the fact that … this is the beginning of it. This is what it looks like, and it’s so beautiful,” she added.

Bloom said that to celebrate her cover, she is traveling to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for her father’s birthday and bringing him a copy of her cover.

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