Throughout 2021, three of Sports Illustrated covers highlight an inspiring woman. Champion tennis player Naomi Osaka represents groundbreaking athletes, Megan Thee Stallion puts hip hop culture upfront and model-actor Leyna Bloom celebrates diversity and trans-activism.
Leyna Bloom is making history as the first transgender woman to land the front cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition. This news comes at a time that still sees trans rights and freedom of gender expression up for debate. Bloom is following in the footsteps of Valentina Sampaio, the first trans model to feature in the publication’s last year and Halima Aden, the first hijab-wearing model in 2019.
“We all know that the world [right now] is in this compassionate space of transformation. Any woman of color being on the cover of this magazine means that the world is evolving, and I’m part of that evolution process,”
says LA-based Bloom during an interview with Vogue.
“This moment represents that we’re going into the future, and this is what the future looks like.”
“Opening eyes, speaking truths and changing minds”
Bloom joins Megan Thee Stallion and Naomi Osaka as cover girls for the 58th instalment of SI‘s swimsuit issue. These momentous steps towards inclusivity and acceptance are milestones for the future of humanity. The model says,
“This magazine is going to change the world.”
Every few years, we step into our future and the evolution of humanity. This moment is a leap into the future of what we are capable of doing, seeing, and taking time to think about. I’m just lucky that I was born into a time where I see the world shifting into this period of inclusivity.
Source: Pop Sugar
During her young life, Bloom didn’t see this achievement for herself. She describes her admiration of stars like Tyra Banks and Beyonce throughout earlier years, both of whom have featured on the swimsuit issue’s cover retrospectively.
“I even remember the first time I saw Tyra’s cover in 1997, because my dad had the copy. Our family celebrated those milestones in Black entertainment.”
Bloom’s cover issue of SI is entitled, “Opening eyes, speaking truths and changing minds”.
Journey to the Cover
Bloom is selective about who she works with. The model walked for Chromat at NYFW 2019, after the brand first gave her the chance to be seen in 2014. Bloom felt that Sports Illustrated was a good next step, imagining it as a platform for her to empower women globally. SI’s editor-in-cheif, MJ Day, set up a meeting between herself and Bloom in 2020. During this meeting, the pair went on to discuss everything from motherhood, activism, the power of bodies and social justice to acceptance. Bloom said,
“It wasn’t the cliché conversation of ‘make sure you diet.’ It was real and human, totally not what I was expecting, but more than I could have dreamed.”
Day’s vision of inclusivity is what Bloom found most inspiring.
“MJ is truly an angel; she represents love, light, and inspiration,” says Bloom. “She isn’t just looking for a perfect model. She wants people from different backgrounds with different stories to tell, of all sizes, shapes, and from all walks of life. She embraced me and embraced each girl who dared to share their story, put on a swimsuit, and say ‘I am beautiful.”
In Celebration of the Release
In honour of the Sports Illustrated annual cover, Bloom’s team explain that she is set to meet up with fellow SI rookies to celebrate the release in July 2021. Upon Bloom’s arrival at the location, she is instead met with Tyra Banks, who was there to conduct an interview with her.
“I sit down, I meet Tyra, and I’m in tears, obviously…Here comes MJ [Day, editor of SI Swim] holding an iPad with my photo on it. I’m like, ‘IS THAT MY COVER!?’…”
The model went on to explain,
“There are no words to captivate how I feel or how anyone would feel. Especially someone like me, because this has literally never happened to anyone like me on the face of the earth. I want to bask in this moment and enjoy July 19, 2021, because today will be a historical day in history.”
Source: Pop Sugar
Bloom’s cover questions gender exclusivity and functions as more than just a visual statement. The cover comes at a time when legislation and political movements seek to exclude transgender girls and women from cultural spaces which celebrate womanhood. Describing the appearance via an Instagram post, Bloom says that the cover “Heals a lot of pain”.
“We deserve this moment. We have waited millions of years to show up as survivors and be seen as full humans filled with wonder.”
Bloom told her 23.7 million Instagram viewers,
“This historical moment is important to #girlslikeus because it allows us to live and be seen.”
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