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8 Things To Know About Fierce Transgender Model Leyna Bloom

"That's the most important thing to me — and being myself with whatever I'm doing."

Culture & Entertainment

As we all know, Pride Month is still in full swing, with celebrations from across social media, all the way to retailers who are openly changing their logos to the colorful, outspoken symbolism of the Pride flag. And someone who is happy to celebrate the moment from the rooter to the tooter, is the stunning Leyna Bloom, the boisterous and unapologetic queen who is taking the industry by storm.


Bloom, who is racking in accolades across the globe, is cementing Pride Month in the best way possible: by being named cover girl of Sport's Illustrated's annual swimsuit, slated to hit stands in July. But outside of being a fierce feline taking over your scrolls, who is Leyna Bloom? Well, to put it lightly, everything.

But there's so much more to know, and why she is someone to watch for. So, here's 8 things to know about the transgender model, Leyna 'Damn' Bloom!

1.Leyna Bloom is no stranger to being the first in many categories:

As we know, the model and actress will be the first transgender woman of color to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue, but Bloom, who's both Black and Filipina, is no stranger to firsts. In fact, she does this shit regularly, as 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, her first feature film.

Additionally, sis is the first openly trans woman of color to walk the Paris Fashion Week runway, oh, and she is also one of the few Black transgender women to have signed with a talent agency.

Of her groundbreaking career, she says:

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

A flex.

2.Speaking of 'Port Authority', the actress relates to, and found her own happiness in the role:

As Leyna puts it, Port Authority is about "being young and not knowing it all, but still choosing to be yourself and fighting for your own happiness," something she can relate to all too well.

The film follows Paul, a 20-year-old who stumbles his way into the queer ballroom scene, where he meets Bloom's character Wye. She's a sweet yet resilient young woman, who serves as the house mother for her ball family. And despite the many objections from their respective chosen families, Paul and Wye fall in love, and the rest is ballroom, interracial history.

"I know I live in a world where I need to fight for myself every second, but in that fight I also need to find happiness. I need to find love, and family, and my crew of people. And that's what this film is about. A lot of the interview questions I've been getting are framed as a white boy dating a Black girl ... and my answer is that it's love. Love comes in all different colors, across all races. I'm a product of interracial dating, and for me, the most important thing about that is the love between two people."

3.Bloom's dad was her biggest supporter during her transition:

From an early age, Leyna always knew she was a woman.

"I just by nature, gravitated toward more feminine objects. My father first noticed that and it kind of scared him but her thought it was a phase that I would grow out of, but I never grew out of it. My dad, when I was young, he was the first person who bought me my first Barbie doll."

And from there, he was always by her side.

"When it was the right age for me to take the next step, me and my father made the right steps. He paid for the doctor visits, the hormones. He wanted to make sure that he had a happy, healthy child."

Go dad!

4.She received a dance scholarship, which forced her back to being someone she no longer identified with:

Bloom received a scholarship for a men's dance program, which forced her to present herself as one.

"After my academics, I would go into the dance classes and I would have to be a boy for my scholarship. I had to cut my hair off, I had to throw away all my 'girl clothes' for this opportunity. And I didn't want to be dancing with another woman, I wanted to be that woman. And I said, 'you know what, enough is enough. I can't live like this.' I immediately dropped out of the school and that summer, I moved to New York City and I started my life."

5.Trans empowerment is WTF she does, and she's unapologetic about it:

When asked what advice she would give her 16-year-old self, the actress tells Bustle:

"Take your hormones, and don't stop until you feel complete."

And because Leyna has spent most of her life arriving to this place of acceptance of self, she is no rookie when it comes to profound advice. And quite frankly, she's over being labeled as a byproduct, simply because she's trans. When asked what her proudest moment as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and how she plans to celebrate Pride, she adds:

"[My proudest moment is] not giving up on myself every step of the way. I will be getting up every day, and living my truth 24/7, but not just because Pride said so. It just comes with the territory since the day I was born."

6.Leyna is more than OK with being a pioneer of trans community:

Leyna may be busy with starring in a few major projects such as the final season of the hit FX seriesPose or the upcoming film Asking for It (which is scheduled to make its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this month), but when asked what projects she's working on, she addresses none of the above and instead pivots her response to a much bigger meaning:

"I'm promoting positive mental health, and following whatever you want in this world. That's the most important thing to me — and being myself with whatever I'm doing."

She continues:

"Trans people are not used to having moments like this. 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.'
"When you accept us, you accept yourself."

7.She also wants to make a rap album:

In fact, her dream is to collaborate with another trans actress taking over Hollywood. She reveals:

"I would love to do a rap album with Vachensky Vieux. We played sisters in the same house on 'Pose'."

Pose aired its season finale earlier this month, after three seasons of LGBTQ+ storytelling.

8.And finally, where does she see herself in 20 years? Nothing like her life is today.

When asked where she sees herself in the future, her response was simple, yet to the point:

"Being the principal of a high school."

A career pivot that comes full circle. We see the vision, sis!

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image via Leyna Bloom/Instagram

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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