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Leyna Bloom On Pride, High Heels and the Need For More Transgender Creatives

For Pride Month, FN is spotlighting LGBTQIA+ executives, entrepreneurs and designers as part of its ongoing commitment to champion diversity across all areas of the footwear business.

Actress and model Leyna Bloom has a lot to celebrate.

After making waves on the runway over the past few years for Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya and brands such as Chromat, Bloom is making history as the first Black and Asian transgender model to star in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue when it is released next month. The actress also joined Billy Porter, Mj Rodriguez and the rest of the cast of “Pose” for its final season this spring. Bloom was also the first transgender woman of color to lead a film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, when she walked the red carpet for the debut of the Martin Scorsese-produced film “Port Authority,” which finally hit theaters May 28.

Bloom recently caught up with FN at the Levi’s Pride 2021 event and panel to talk about her resumé, high heels and the next steps in LGBTQIA+ activism.

Reflecting on success

“I’m proud of the patience I’ve given myself through it all,” said Bloom. “Working with so many different people, in a pandemic, outside a pandemic, I think it’s important to just have patience. While it’s unfolding, just learn how to celebrate, because you are moving. It’s new for someone like me. It’s new for someone who is trans to be moving. It’s only been done a few times.”

leyna bloom, port authority, martin scorsese, leyna bloom model, leyna bloom pose, cannes film festival
Bloom at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of “Port Authority.” The actress made history as the first trans woman of color to lead a cast.
CREDIT: AP Images

On Pride and LGBTQIA+ activism

“So much progress has happened in just one decade. Before it was just one brand, and then two brands [showing support], now it’s become so many brands having this moment and it’s not just around Pride, it’s everything. It’s the shows, it’s the advertising, it’s the language. I want to continue allow things to patiently happen and not add pressure. I think that’s where we are at. Let it happen and let it become this new normal.”

Behind the camera

“The next step of support is if you are having moments where you are talking about marginalized people, Black and brown people, trans people, it’s important to make sure that if that is what the advertising looks like, then behind the advertising, what does it look like? Are you hiring the trans talent? Are you hiring Black talent? Are those ideas fundamentally valued in front of and behind the camera? So many queer and trans bodies need to be in the process of storytelling. And right now from what I know on a large scale there is only one and her name is Janet Mock. So the fact that there is just one, it means there is still so much work to be done.”

“I would love to be able to work with more people — photographers, makeup artists, agents, people behind the camera — that look like me. I feel like when I’m doing projects and it’s not like that, I have to hire my own team to be my protection. Having someone who is not familiar with your lifestyle tell you what you should do — you have to really understand what’s in your mind and in your heart. I need to hire those people so they can help me to tell that. I can’t do it alone.”

leyna bloom, tommy hilfiger, zendaya, tommy zendaya, paris fashion week, leyna bloom model
Bloom on the runway at the Tommy Hilfiger x Zendaya show at Paris Fashion Week in 2019.
CREDIT: AP Images

On the power of the ballroom community

“Ballroom is the power of imagination. We often look back at when someone told us to suppress something, whether it was our parents or our teachers or someone who told us, ‘You have a little extra something, don’t do that.’ I remember the first time I came home and asked my dad why people were so mean. And he just said, ‘You’re just special and the world is not ready for that, just don’t lose your specialness. Love it and surround yourself with people who can celebrate you.’ That’s where ballroom came in. When I started I was 15 or 16 years old, I was looking for a place to have an outlet to express myself, to express my imagination. This is a place where you come as you are and I just think, why isn’t the rest of the world in that mindset? Why are we taught to suppress ourselves, why are we taught that the entire human race can only be in two genders and one sexuality?”

Modern femininity

“Modern femininity now is potent in all forms of identities, genders and sexualities. For me as a woman, it’s also about being conscious of the masculine energies inside of me and loving both of them. As a trans woman, people think that we fantasize about being a woman — no, we just fantasize about being ourselves, being unique and not being hurt based off of some masculine energies. As humans, we need to not suppress, we need to invite every form of identity that is inside of us — and create new genders. There are so many different ways of seeing things and telling stories and being part of moments.”

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Bloom with actor Brandon Flynn at the Levi’s Pride 2021 event on June 9 at the brand’s Soho shop in NYC.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Levi's

Who gets to wear high heels

“If you can walk in it, why not? If you can put your feet in them and they are making shoes in your size, and you have the nerve to put your feet in some heels and walk a block, you’ve got my respect. That’s all I care about. I want to invite people to think differently, to dress differently, to speak differently, to have different types of conversations. And I think it’s so sexy when I’m dating a guy and I’m getting dressed — and and he’s trying on my shoes.”

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