Leyna Bloom is a show-stopping model with an activist’s soul
Leyna Bloom has become an NYC fixture after stealing the show on multiple Chromat runways. So it’s not surprising that behind this model’s powerful strut is an activist’s soul.
Raised by a single dad in Chicago, Leyna was a successful ballerina — even sharing the stage with Misty Copeland when she was younger — before she hit the fashion scene. Her activist dad supported her identifying as transgender from an early age, and Leyna has been committed to bringing marginalized communities to the forefront of fashion and beauty from the jump.
We talked to Leyna — who’s also an aspiring actress — about where she gets her motivation and her favorite self-love practices.
Why do you think self-love is important for POC?
Yes, I do absolutely. Being a person of color in the world right now is a moment to truly be recognized — the magic we have in our blood, our entire culture the history of our people that runs through our veins. I have such pride in my ancestors.
My family ties to [this] ecosystem truly give me my armor. You have to own your responsibility to the people that have paved a way for you — to speak up for people that have not yet found their voices. I remember when that was me, not too long ago.
I changed the way I thought about myself and made it happen through self-love. Maybe in the process, I helped change the world. But there was a period where I was silenced, almost mute. I was waiting patiently. Timing is so important in your own individual life and journey. To finally open up and having something important come out is a moment in your life to be liberated.
Who is your favorite civil rights leader and why do you look up to them?
To just name one person wouldn’t be enough as so many have paved the way for us. Like Maya Angelou, she spoke to me, she is a freedom writer. Her life of work make me love my uniqueness. The way she revered our people always made me feel like an art form.
Angela Davis another favorite. Being an educated, biracial, radical believer and thinker, her ideas and movement changed how I see the power of black women’s intellect.
I admire Bethann Hardison for her advocacy for people of color in the fashion world, her leadership and the courage to speak up. She completely shook up the fashion world and demanded and reminded designers to use more people of color, especially since the entire fashion world has ridden on the back of our culture. Without role models like her, I wouldn’t be able to work.
I’ve also taken the time to appreciate and continue the legacy of influential entertainers like Dorthy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Mohammed Ali, Josephine Baker, Nina Simone. Not only were they magically gifted, but when they were not in front of the camera sharing their gifts and truths with the world, in their own time they were speaking up about the corruption in the world. They were not just sitting around collecting checks. They used their platform to give back. That’s true leadership and love for yourself and your people.
Where do you think your confidence and passion for activism stems from?
My passion for standing up for myself comes from my father. I watched him, being a black man working hard in America, survive as a single parent. He was 26 when I was born. He raised me, a transgender kid, in a time when society had zero conversation about and zero options for a someone like me.
He took full ownership of his seed and gave me an amazing childhood. He showed me leaders that inspired him and that gave him strength. My childhood was filled with a lot of adventure to explore myself and my uniqueness. He made it very known that it was okay to express me — there were no limits to my full potential.
He taught me everything I needed to know to survive in this world. He encourages me to speak up and share what’s on my mind and in heart. I remember him always saying to me at the end of the day, all I needed were the essentials of life to be happy and successful. It all really came down to self-love for me. What he instilled in me at a very young age made me who I am today.
How do you feel about beauty finally being recognized in marginalized communities?
For so many years the marginalized communities, in my opinion, has really been the forefront of everyone’s lifestyle especially now. Our raw beauty and essence have truly empowered the entire world. You can not survive without us.
We do the groundwork. We are the ones getting our hands dirty and in return, we set the trends in music to fashion our full-blown art expression, down to communication and our laughter, our food — this entire lifestyle. The ideals that are rooted in our blood, the true blueprint of life, is very black. The entire world has ridden on the back of our rich culture for centuries.
People wanna take everything from us and not give us our credit. Then when we speak up we are shot dead, canceled, released, blacklisted, for standing our ground and taking up for ourselves. You can never erase all our riches. They’re in every element of life — the true light of all lights, the art form of all life forms.
Still, in understanding this, you have to be aware of the policing against us that has not stopped. They are trying to break us down. People are getting too comfortable with the decimation of the black family, the mass incarceration of the black man, putting all our strong men in jailhouses, leaving the black women to take care of each other and our communities and everybody else.
Yes, we’re talking about the brutality against black people from the police. The entire educational system needs to be rewritten with us in first place. In knowing all this, such beauty is inherent in us. We can prevail and still remain, to become stronger and accept our triumphs and just keep pushing forward.
Do you have any advice for those that are still searching for their voice within limited spaces?
We’re taught by society that our worth is found in the idols of our culture, technology, status, youth, sex, power, money, attractiveness, and romantic relationships. You can, yes, be inspired by all of this. But If you base your self-worth on the external world, you’ll never be capable of self-love.
Your inner critic will flood you with thoughts of “it will never be good enough, I don’t have enough, and I don’t do enough.”
Feeling worthy requires you to see yourself with fresh eyes of self-awareness and love. Acceptance and love must come from within and it comes from people that have paved the way for you, trusting you to hold down the touch of your family legacy.
So many people climb mountains, went across oceans, went through real perseverance for you to be here to represent. Your worth is in your true nature, a core of love and inner goodness for everything that makes you the person you are. You are a beautiful light, because you are love. We can bury our magnificence, but it’s impossible to destroy.
Loving ourselves isn’t a one-time event. It’s an endless, ongoing process. It begins with you, enfolding yourself in your own affection and appreciation. The next generation of leaders — wow, get ready. They’re wearing their armor of love at first sight. Knowing that means everything I’m doing is paying off. It’s so worth it because it works.
Are there any self-love and self-care practices you are willing to share with us?
My favorite one: look at your hands. Watch how they move. These are the tools that will fight your battles. They depend on you. Look at your skin. See the beauty of every atom connecting and protection you. Feel the texture of your hair. It’s your crown that you will never take off. Hear the music in your smile. That’s the harmony of your people showing their thanks. Now hug yourself. No one on earth can do that better than you can. That’s the paradise you’ve been looking for.
Pre-Fall 2017 Christian Siriano Blouse
Pre-Fall 2017 Christian Siriano Dress
Pre-Fall 2017 Phillip Plein Skirt | Chris Habana Earrings | Vintage Blouse, Gloves & Ring
Zara Dress | Vintage Versace Dress and Necklace | Chris Habana Earrings
Pre-Fall 2017 Phillip Plein Knitted Top & Skirt
Photography: Adomako Aman
Makeup: Ashley Victoria
Hair: Deandre Peoples
Stylist: Thaddeus Laday
Stylist Assistant: Adomako Aman