Leyna Bloom in Classic Minimalist Jewellery
Named one of the women shaping the future of fashion by GLAMOUR magazine, Leyna Bloom is taking the modelling world by storm. She is one of the few openly transgender models to walk New York Fashion Week, and to appear in VOGUE INDIA, generally considered a conservative country. Bloom's history-making, barrier-shattering career has now culminated in her appearance in the coveted swimsuit issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
Born in Chicago to a Filipina mother and an African American father, Bloom knew from a young age that she was a woman. Bloom faced a turbulent childhood and was raised by her father following her mother's deportation. Fortunately, he supported her decision to transition.
Bloom is also an accomplished dancer, having trained in ballet, lyrical, hip hop, jazz modern, tap, and vogue. She took her first dance classes in sixth grade, and performed on the American Ballet Theater stage with Misty Copeland by the age of 14. She received a full dance scholarship to the Chicago Academy for the Arts as a teenager, however, in spite of this early promise and opportunity, she chose to give up on a traditional path to pursue her authentic self. After dropping out of the Academy because the men's scholarship did not allow her to dance as a woman, she left Chicago and moved to New York City, where she faced homelessness. “I slowly started to fall into pressure, but I wasn’t living my most authentic self,” Bloom, recalls. “I was living my life for people saying, ‘You are a boy.’ I was like, ‘I don’t fit this.’ I’m gonna do pas de deux as the male? I’m the woman, I’m the soloist, I’m the princess! Life is too short to be someone who someone else wants me to be. I don’t want to be stashed away. I want to be living out loud and proud.”
Bloom survived by working at a restaurant during the daytime. At night she earned cash prizes in the underground ballroom scene, voguing and serving face on the floors of vacant Harlem theaters and dance halls. In this world, she found acceptance and a safe space to be herself while competing with other queer youth. Her talent and beauty earned her status and recognition among her peers.
Slowly her modelling career took off and Bloom also landed a role in a movie at the Cannes Film Festival. The film, Danielle Lessovitz’s “Port Authority,” bears an eerie resemblance to Bloom’s own life. Produced by Martin Scorsese, it follows a young Pittsburgh transplant (“Dunkirk’s” Fionn Whitehead) who turns up at the bus station with nowhere to stay. He soon crosses paths with Wye (Bloom), a fixture on the Kiki ballroom scene, and starts to fall for her. But when he realises she’s transgender, he becomes unsure of whether he wants to continue their romance.
Bloom’s boyfriend is a cisgender white man — an admirer from Serbia who slid into her direct messages on Instagram. But she said she’s well aware that many straight men are fearful they’ll be judged for being attracted to a trans woman. “Men are raised to be the protector and provider — you can’t be weak, you have to be strong,” she said. “And dating a trans woman is considered to be weak — or you’re fetishizing, you have a sexual attraction to something that is not real. But when I’m cut, I bleed just like you. I’m real.”