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Meet Leyna Bloom, the 1st trans woman of color in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue

"Trans people are not used to having moments like this," the model and actress said. "It's kind of like you have to be pinched, in, like, 'Oh, this is really happening.'"
IMage: Leyna Bloom.
Leyna Bloom.NBC News; Getty Images

[June is Pride Month, and this year we're celebrating by honoring 30 LGBTQ firsts. To see the full list, visit]

Model and actor Leyna Bloom will be the first transgender woman of color to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue when it lands on magazine stands in July.

But Bloom, who's both Black and Filipina, is no stranger to firsts: In 2017, she became the first trans woman of color to be featured in Vogue India, and in 2019, she became the first to star in a film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival for her appearance in "Port Authority."

"These are huge moments," Bloom said. "But it's just like, why has it taken so long?"

Bloom said she is also one of the few Black transgender women to have signed with a talent agency, which she sees as a path to better representation for trans women of color in the fashion and entertainment worlds.

"I think more agencies, more movies, more films, more fashion shows need to not only hire trans talent but also make sure that the people they are hiring — the crew, the casting directors — represent that, also," she said.

Bloom, a native of Chicago, is only the second trans woman to have been featured in Sports Illustrated (Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio became the first last year). In a statement shared with CNN, the magazine said Bloom's "presence as the first trans woman of color to be in our issue is a result of her lifetime dedication to forging her own path that has led to acceptance, love and change."

Bloom is also busy pursuing an acting career. She recently starred in the final season of the hit Netflix series "Pose." She said it was her first time acting under the direction of another Black trans woman, writer and director Janet Mock.

"I feel like we need more people investing into trans narratives and stories that are not about sensationalizing and sexualizing our experiences but that are about normalizing our experiences so we can just live and breathe in those spaces," she said.

Bloom will also star in the coming film "Asking for It," scheduled to make its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this month. Bloom plays a gunslinger named Jett in the action-packed thriller, which centers on the Cherry Bombers, a gang of women waging vengeance on a society plagued by "masculine normative morality," Bloom said. In a world where trans women of color are plagued by transmisogyny and violence, Bloom said, the role was "a moment for a trans woman to put a gun in her hand and fight back."

"This is what this film means to me," she said.

Bloom said Pride to her is "revolutionary," a word that could also describe her own rise to stardom.

"Trans people are not used to having moments like this," Bloom said. "We're not used to being celebrated. We're not used to having the world say, 'Oh, my God, this is huge.' You know? It's kind of like you have to be pinched, in, like, 'Oh, this is really happening.'"

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