History is made one photo shoot at a time. The newest issue of Sports Illustrated‘s famed Swimsuit Edition features Leyna Bloom, the first trans woman of color ever included in the feature.
Bloom, who grew up in Chicago and is Black and Filipino, told The New York Times that she had a specific intention and strict rules for how she wanted to appear in the shoot. “I told them: no bikinis, no strings, no thongs, no nudity,” she said. “I was going to wear a one-piece, that’s what I feel most comfortable in. We shot 12 suits that day—some flirty, some sexy, some really strong. Each one captured a different part of me.”
In participating, she hopes that readers will see that “my autonomy and my anatomy are beautiful. I want people to see that, and to see that you can be respected, appreciated, and loved regardless of your body shape, sexuality, and the color of your skin.”
Specifically, she says that in becoming more visible, “I’m promoting something that has been missing in the world: trans beauty in all shapes and all sizes. I’m representing Filipina, I’m representing Black, I am representing people who have been immigrants. For them, I’m a vessel of change.”
Though the magazine won’t hit stands until July, one of the pictures from the shoot is already available on Instagram, and it’s stunning. Bloom posted the golden-hour snap to her profile alongside a heartfelt caption about what her inclusion meant to her. “This is what it looks like to be in full bloom,” she wrote. “Thank you @si_swimsuit for allowing me to showcase my heavenly form…In this moment, I am a representation of all the communities I grew from, and all the communities I’m planting seeds in…We have so much work to do, cause a new journey has just begun.”
Sports Illustrated has made a concerted effort in recent years to be more inclusive in its model picks. Ashley Graham became its first plus-size cover star, in 2016, and Halima Aden was its first hijab-wearing model, in 2019, per Page Six. Valentina Sampaio, who is Brazilian, was the magazine’s first trans model in 2020, just a year after breaking the same barrier in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, a gig Bloom has campaigned for.
May Leyna Bloom continue to bloom!