Chicago-native is first trans cover model for Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

Mon. July 26, 2021 2:01 PM by Gerald Farinas

leyna bloom

photo credit // sports illustrated

Leyna Bloom celebrates her Black and Asian heritages

Chicago-native Leyna Bloom made history as the first transgender cover model for the annual swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated magazine. Proud of her intersectionality of representation in media, Black and Asian Americans are celebrating alongside the LGBTQ community.

Bloom addressed the milestone on Instagram saying, "We deserve this moment; we have waited millions of years to show up as survivors and be seen as full humans filled with wonder."

In her late twenties, Bloom reflected on the pains of discrimination and humilation that she has experienced on her way to her current stardom. And she doesn't take for granted that most transgender persons experience the same.

"I had dreamt a million beautiful dreams, but for girls like me, most dreams are just fanciful hopes in a world that often erases and omits our history and existence," she said.

She's owning the pride of the moment. Many transgender advocates believe she should not apologize for it.

"This moment is so powerful because it allows me to live forever even after my physical form is gone. Not a lot of people get to live in the future, so at this moment, I'm proudly choosing to live forever."

Bloom comes from a subculture within the LGBTQ community called "ball culture" or "house ballroom community." It is especially prevalent among Black and Latinx members, originally in New York City, competing for titles. Competitions include performances and modeling, sometimes similar to drag competitions.

At its root, ball culture was a protest of laws in place making it illegal in parts of the U.S. to dress in the clothing of the opposite sex.

"I dedicate this cover to all ballroom femme queens, past, present, and future," Bloom proclaimed. "This historical moment is important to girls like us because it allows us to live and be seen."

"Many girls like us don't have the chance to live our dreams, or to live long at all," she lamented. "I hope my cover empowers those, who are struggling to be seen, feel valued."