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Leyna Bloom is making history as the first transgender woman of color to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.
“I’m promoting something that has been missing in the world: trans beauty in all shapes and all sizes,” the model and actress told The New York Times of landing the coveted gig.
“I’m representing Filipina, I’m representing Black, I am representing people who have been immigrants. For them, I’m a vessel of change.”
Bloom posed in 12 different one-piece suits for the groundbreaking shoot, calling the experience “bigger than my wildest infinite dreams” in an Instagram post announcing her casting.
“My autonomy and my anatomy are beautiful,” she told the Times. “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.”
When asked about the long-running criticism of the glossy’s sexy shoots, Bloom replied, “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.”
The history-making model, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, also hopes her casting will help provide more role models 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.’”
The swimsuit feature is just one of many high-fashion highlights in Bloom’s career, which has also included an appearance in Vogue India, a Levi’s campaign and a runway gig alongside Zendaya for Tommy Hilfiger.
Her casting comes on the heels of last year’s history-making issue, when Valentina Sampaio, 24, became the first transgender model to appear in SI Swim’s pages.
While the 2021 issue won’t hit stands until July 20, the magazine has teased many members of its lineup, which also includes COVID frontline worker Maggie Rawlins.
The iconic issue has strived for more diverse representation in recent years, with Ashley Graham cast as the first plus-size cover star in 2016 and Halima Aden featured as the first hijab-wearing model in 2019.
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