Leyna Bloom wants us to hold the modeling industry accountable for their exclusivity

We are so stoked to announce that our newest Proud To Be Cover Girl is model and trans activist, Leyna Bloom! 

Outfit by The Blonds

Leyna Bloom has gained a ton of attention when she called out big fashion brands – like Victoria’s Secret – for their blatant exclusivity with their model rosters. Leyna was campaigning to be the first trans woman of color to model for Victoria’s Secret, and the Internet was pushing for her to be hired by the brand.

While Leyna still hasn’t modeled for the brand, her open, online discussion about the situation helped spark a bigger discussion about the harsh realities for LGBTQ+ models in the industry.

Outfit by Gabriel Held Vintage

While it’s 2018, and it may seem like we are “moving forward,” we still obviously have such a long way to go – and that’s what Leyna’s personal stories have proven. Leyna’s true passion is modeling, but she is also extremely passionate about education, activism, and the LGBTQ+ community.

We spoke to the stunning model about her transition, her family’s support, her first cover, the struggles of the modeling industry, and how to deal with haters. Check out the exclusive interview and photoshoot below!

Outfit by Gabriel Held Vintage, Sunglasses by A-morir Eyewear

You’re Filipina and black – how do you feel your diverse background has shaped you into the powerful woman you are today?

Being a person of color overall has giving me so much inner strength to create so many opportunities for myself. Having strong African and Asian genes is quite a punch of power. To have both those backgrounds mixed together gives me a lot of advantages that a lot of people don’t have, and I take full advantage of the perks.

Outfit by Gabriel Held Vintage, Sunglasses by A-morir Eyewear

Your mother was deported when you were just a baby, and your father raised you. Do you feel that you are stronger because of the difficulties your family has faced?

Absolutely not. Having my actual, biological mother absent from my life was definitely something I personally was affected by and still, to this day, I have personal issues with. But, those were the cards I was dealt. I was lucky too have at least one parent, and a great parent at that.

My dad raised me as a single parent, and he did the best he could, even though it wasn’t easy for him. I think he did a great job. Being a strong, black man living in Chicago and working in law enforcement – there was allot of sacrifices my dad made, while being very supportive of me and each of his other children. As long as we were happy and we worked hard for what we wanted, that’s all he wanted. He never gave up on us. Every step of the way he was front in center that’s type of support is still the backbone of me today.

Outfit by Gabriel Held Vintage, Sunglasses by A-morir Eyewear

READ ALSO: PROUD TO BE: MUA and YouTube star, Bretman Rock, should actually start a career in motivational speaking

What are your thoughts on unfair deportation laws, and how do you think that we as a society can work towards unbiased views of immigrants?

I am a product of immigration. From childhood, my mom was taken away from my brother and me. This horrible system removed my mother from the life she created and she was sent back to the Philippines. She could not even say goodbye. For 23 years, I lost that puzzle piece. Destroying families through deportation will never benefit our society.

How we treat the undocumented says a great deal about us as a society – whether or not we will continue to fulfill the fundamental American promise of equality and opportunity for all. I lost my connection with my mother, a part of me that was always missing. Now, as a grown women with little resources in today’s society, I was able to find her in the Philippines by luck. The deportation system is one of many outdated systems that is ripping families apart and destroying human potential.

Outfit by Gabriel Held Vintage

You have talked extensively about how your dad was very supportive of you and your transition. What are some things he did to support you?

When he first came to terms with the fact it was never a phase. Knowing that your child is not like the rest of the children and will not grow up and have the same opportunities as everyone else, and to also be a person of color in this world. Those were two negatives already on my back. But, when he truly realized how special that was also he told me, “You are a very special human.

The world will be afraid of you, they will try to hurt you and deprive you from what you deserve. As long as you are who you are and keep living the life you live, this is something that will never go away. Just embrace it and be the best person you can be, no matter who want to be or what you want to be, just be the best and respect your self and demand respect.”

Those words as a little kid were life changing for me, to know I had that type of awakening at a young age. It gave me the confidence to do what I wanted.

How can other parents with LGBTQ+ children learn to be more there for their children?

First thing is to never ask, “Are you okay?” Just say that you know and that it’s okay and we will figure it out together. I love you and I support you, and I just want you to be happy. You will find a way, and I will be by your side to help you every step of the way. That’s how easy it is. Now, imagine if all the parents around the world thought like this – wouldn’t the World be a better place?

Top by The Blonds, Pants by Pearly

You received a men’s dance scholarship, after you had already begun transitioning. What was it like being forced to be someone you were not at that stage in your life? How do you think scholarship programs can change in order to be more inclusive?

It was a stab in my heart, actually, to be someone I wasn’t for a opportunity that I wanted so bad. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. It was probably the most annoying time in my teenage life. I started my transition straight out of grammar school, during my first year of high school. I was living my life everyday as a women. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school, when I received the call that I was accepted into the Chicago Academy of the Arts.

Already two years into my transition, I had to stop. I wanted to be a dancer and a performer so badly, and this was an opportunity of a lifetime – I couldn’t let it slip through my fingers. I immediately said yes and took the full scholarship. I cut my hair, threw away my feminine clothes, and started living my life as a boy for my dream. While making someone else happy and fitting into a “norm,” I was killing myself inside. It was misery and my grades reflected that. I was in such depression trying to put up a front to just fit in.

I dropped out at 17, and I moved to NYC by myself to start my transition again. I loved school, but school didn’t love me, and I had to love myself. It’s a beautiful thing, now, to see schools getting more and more open to inclusion, I think the entire education system is outdated, but I think the next step to having an open learning experience is to hire more trans and non-binary teachers.

How exciting would it be to have an art teacher like me, or to have a drag queen teach sex ed? I never saw that growing up. I never saw any person like me working in public spaces. That’s the change we need in the world.

You are an extremely talented dancer, and you even shared the stage with Misty Copeland when you were just 14 years old. How did you start dancing, and what does dancing mean for you?

Yes, it was all passed down to me. My great grandmother was a dance teacher and she had a dance studio in her house. She raised both her daughters doing beauty pageants and runway shows on the south side of Chicago. My aunty Gail ended up dancing with Sammy Davis Junior.

My cousins, sister, brother, and I all took dancing classes growing up. My dad, aunty, and step-mom did modeling, so it kind of was a family thing. We were all super creative – it was in our blood. It’s a beautiful thing knowing that all my ancestors’ dreams are living through me – all our dreams are coming true together.

What are your thoughts on “POSE,” Ryan Murphy’s new show on FX? 

I think it is a beautiful show, and I am absolutely in love with everything “POSE.” I’m so happy that my ballroom community has a place front and center, finally, after so many years. A lot of amazing, talented people are attached to that show, and I pray for its’ continued success season after season.

You officially came out as trans on the cover of CANDY, and you shared the cover with 13 other trans women. That must have been an amazing experience. Tell us about that moment.

I had followed the magazine for a long time, and I remember coming across the editor’s information, and we started talking. I shared with him my secret (of being trans), and he didn’t believe me. Opportunities kept coming up for me to be featured, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Finally, the opportunity came again and I was to be on the cover. At the time, I didn’t know if I deserved this opportunity. I was completely unknown, and the rest of the girls on the cover were true trailblazers in the community.

I guess the editor saw something in me. I showed up on set, met the other beautiful women – I already knew a few of the ladies, but that’s where I met Janet, Laverne, and now one of my closest friends, Geena. On that set was the first time I had worked with a big photographer, Marino Vivanco. Marino was the first person to tell me I will be the first trans Victoria’s Secret model of color – that day on set.

It is a moment I will never forget. We were in the beginning stages, because anything trans in the spotlight before us was non-existent. To see where we all are four years later, and all we have done in that time is amazing.

You are the 2nd trans woman to be featured in an International Vogue feature, and the first trans woman of color to be featured. This is obviously a huge accomplishment, but it’s also kind of ridiculous that it took this long. It’s 2018, and there’s still a huge stigma around the trans community. How do you feel that America, and ultimately, the world, can change for the better when it comes to our views on the trans community?

I think we need more opportunities on the big stages and in the big leagues. We need more people investing into trans lifestyles within politics, entertainment, and education. We need more trans heroes investing into the brains of trans people – we spend so much time talking about the bodies of trans people, that we forget that we are some of the most brilliant people on Earth.

We have so much strength and courage to do what we do and put up with what we put up with. We have challenged ourselves so much in society that we truly deserve to be front and center of the World – especially if everyone keeps directly taking from our lifestyles. It’s actually super annoying knowing that people are taking our body language, stories, style, fashion, and expressions, and trying to use it against us, when we are the blueprint of it.

Invest into trans lifestyles. Let us teach you how to be your most authentic self.

READ ALSO: PRIDE MONTH: The band, Cub Sport, fought for same sex marriage in Australia

What do you have to say to those in the industry that have pushed aside you and other trans models?

I have no words. Let them suffer the rainbow of love.

Tell us about dating as a trans woman. Are dating apps harder to use? Is there anything the rest of us could do to be more supportive?

I’m not really a big fan of dating apps for me, personally. I tried it and it never got me anywhere. I think it’s hard to find love and happiness in this World. When you find it, hold on tight, because it is rare that it will come back around. I think people just need to know what works for them, and make sure you know what you want. Then, focus on yourself when love comes knocking. Just be ready, but in the meantime, find love in yourself.

Outfit by The Blonds

Since it’s Pride month, what does Pride mean to you?

Pride is a lifestyle, not just a month. It’s a way of living in each and every person that has chosen to be their most authentic self.

How does being involved in Pride month affect you?

I live prideful everyday of my life. I wear it as my armor. It introduces me before I speak. By me doing what I love and believe in, my heart is right. That is my pride.

What is your biggest modeling dream?

To get to a place in my career where I am on every major magazine cover in the World.

What are the main three things that need to change in the modeling industry?

Better wages, more inclusivity, and more eco-friendly designers.

How do you deal with the haters?

I’m a professional hair flipper, so I let the wind handle them when I hair flip them away.

What is your beauty secret to maintain such an effortless natural look?

Keep a smile on your face and everything else will work itself out!

What are your top 3 hair products for your beautiful curls?

A great condition wit lots of moisturizer, a good oil treatment make sure your hair get lots of nutrition, and love – that’s the ingredient for everything.

If you weren’t modeling, what career path do you think you’d have?

I would probably be a teacher. I would love to teach people about humanity and how important it is to find their place in this world – to love yourself, love your body, and how to appreciate all the things we take for advantage of in this world.

Dating deal breakers?

Commitment issues, communication problems, and not being goal-oriented.

Your beauty icons growing up?

Monica Baluchi, Yasmeen Gahari, Cindy Crawford, Rihanna, Angeline Jolie, Aaliyah, Selena, and Dorothy Dandridge.

What is your skincare regime?

I went through trail and error with so many products until I really found something that works for me. I think that it’s super important to drink lots of water and make time to get lots of healthy sun. Also, saltwater does wonders for skin and hair.

READ ALSO: What it’s really like to be gay in Greek life

Brows or lashes?


Outfit by Gabriel Held Vintage

What outfit makes you feel the sexiest?

Laying naked on the bed right out the shower on fresh, white sheets.

Advice to LGBTQ+ community about breaking into an industry that keeps pushing them down?

I ask myself these things everyday – how bad do you want it? Is it worth it fight for what you want? Who are you helping in the process besides yourself? If you can answer these questions, then you’re on the right path.

Photos by Lula Hyers

Styling by Gabriel Held

Hair by Sean Bennett

Makeup by Justin Lentz

Art Direction & Cover Art by Lisa Yoo

Gimme More

Do You Like?

Some things are only found on Facebook. Don't miss out.