Leyna Bloom Is Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue’s First Transgender Cover Star

As the first openly transgender woman to cover the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Leyna Bloom can safely say her modeling career is, well, in full bloom.

But the seeds for the history-making moment were planted back in 1997, when she first flipped through the Tyra Banks-fronted edition of the bikini bible on her father’s coffee table.

“When they told me I got the cover, I spoke to my dad,” Bloom said.

“I was like, When I was looking at that magazine … I was looking into my future. You were giving me the tools I needed to see myself, to know that I could be there, that I could inspire, that one day I could be a part of this.”

Bloom’s interest in modeling and movement grew from family roots; she first envisioned a future in fashion while growing up on the South Side of Chicago, where her grandmother taught ballroom and runway classes.

“This is my bloodline, this is my ancestry, this is where I come from,” she recalled thinking of her family matriarch’s work.