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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 series Pose 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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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