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Model and actress Leyna Bloom has become the first trans person to appear on the cover of the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, the magazine’s most famous and best-selling edition.
“I dedicate this cover to all the female queens of the ballroom past, present and future,” Bloom wrote on her Instagram. “A lot of girls like us don’t have the chance to live our dreams, or to live long. I hope my blanket will make those who struggle to be seen feel valued.”
The 27-year-old is an accomplished model whose star on the cover of Sports Illustrated is just the latest in a growing list of obstacles she has broken since her release in 2014: one of the first women trans to parade at Paris Fashion Semaine; the first trans woman of color to star in a film at the Cannes Film Festival; and the first trans woman to grace the pages of Vogue India.
“This moment heals a lot of pain in the world. We deserve this moment; we’ve waited millions of years to appear as survivors and be seen as full humans filled with wonder,” Bloom wrote on Twitter.
Three women of color to appear on the cover this year
Bloom appears on one of three covers this year, joining tennis star Naomi Osaka and rapper Megan Thee Stallion. All three are women of color: Bloom identifies as black and Filipino; Osaka is mixed race, with a Japanese mother and a Haitian father; and Megan Thee Stallion is black.
Osaka and Megan Thee Stallion also make history: Osaka as the first black athlete and Megan Thee Stallion as the first rapper to appear in the number.
Sports Illustrated has worked in recent years to make its swimsuit issues more inclusive. First published in 1964, the magazine did not feature a black cover model until Tyra Banks won a spot in 1996.
Last year, the magazine first featured trans model Valentina Sampaio in the issue. In 2019, Sports Illustrated featured Halima Aden, a Muslim model who wore a hijab and burkini, alongside soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who was the first openly gay woman to appear in the issue.
“I’ve dreamed of a million sweet dreams, but for girls like me, most dreams are just fanciful hopes in a world that often erases and omits our history and even our existence,” Bloom wrote on her Instagram in March when Sports Illustrated announced its inclusion in the swimsuit issue.
Milestone comes amid new bans on trans athletes
The magazine’s decision to feature Bloom comes as Republican-led state legislatures have decided to ban girls and trans women from competing in women’s and women’s sports teams. At least nine states have enacted such bans, although they face legal challenges.
“It happens so much in sports alone with gender identity and trans women trying to play sports. But having a trans woman as a symbol of beauty in a swimsuit on a beach compared to other icons, like Tyra Banks and Giselle and Heidi Klum, it’s a testament to what’s going on in the world right now and what’s going to happen in the future, ”Bloom said in an interview with Variety Magazine.