Supermodel Leyna Bloom on the Power and Beauty of Hair

"I think hair is a beautiful language."

Leyna Bloom

Leyna Bloom

Arrestingly beautiful and equipped with the classic charm of a '90s supermodel, spend just a few minutes with the warm, quick-to-smile Leyna Bloom, and you'll see why she's swiftly becoming one of the most recognizable faces in modeling today. Her 2017 appearance in Vogue India was a first for a trans woman of color in the magazine. She followed up with another history-making turn in this month's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. As the first Black and Asian trans model to star in the legendary magazine edition, Bloom celebrates her own personal victory but is even happier about what it means for the communities she represents.

Ahead of Pride month, Bloom's jam-packed schedule shows no sign of slowing down. In addition to the release of her critically-acclaimed film Port Authority (its premiere at Cannes was the first time a film starring a trans woman of color debuted at the festival), the model and actress is partnering with haircare line John Frieda Hair Care on an initiative to raise money for GLSEN, the LGBTQIA+ nonprofit fostering safe and affirming school environments. In the midst of her career whirlwind, we caught up with the supermodel to learn more about the initiative, her favorite beauty products, and what Pride means to her this year.

Leyna Bloom selfie


On Working with John Frieda to Support LGBTQIA Youth

This campaign is a powerful partnership with GLSEN and John Frieda about getting ready for this summer, getting ready for Pride, and getting ready to have important conversations—especially around this time of year when we are activating a lot of amazing content and storytelling about my community. It's so important to celebrate each other, celebrate where we're at in culture, celebrate how much work we have put in—and where we have come from.

This campaign really exemplifies what I love to do, which is activism and fashion together and for Pride and for the community. It's talking to people about hair and how their transition is a dimension of elements of who we are. Hair is a language on its own: how we talk about ourselves and our bodies along with our pronouns. We uplift the community with new dialogue and conversations that are happening about self-love. And how brands are really standing up for us and making sure that they're using their platforms to tell our stories, which are so rich.

On Hair Care

I love the flexibility of hair. As a trans woman, I'm often looking to kind of rebirth or re-innovate and reinvent myself through the language of hair. Whether it's curly, straight, in braids, an up-do, down, or just ponytails, I want to have the flexibility with who I am and my transition.

I think hair is a beautiful language, and I want to have it all. I don't want to limit myself to just one look. And I think for me, it's just about being healthy first and using products that are amazing—but also knowing that those products and brands that I'm putting on my body are doing the groundwork to celebrate who I am and what I'm about. John Frieda is that brand. Their Frizz Ease Curl Creme ($10) is something that I really love the lusciousness of. I love shampooing my hair and then using products—it's just another layer of happiness to the experience of having this language around your hair. I love it to be fresh and clean and effortless and flirty.

John Frieda Curl Cream Oil
John Frieda Frizz Ease Dream Curls Nourishing Creme Oil $10

On Summer Beauty

Honestly, since it's so hot and sticky, I'm one of those girls who just wants to be very fresh and effortless. I have a nice lip on—which is just a balm for shine. I'll do probably a light, dry dust on my face, making sure these eyebrows are clean. A little light mascara—I like keeping it very minimal, very simple. It's all going to sweat off anyway, so what's the point?!

I want to go natural and embrace being in the moment and enjoying it—not needing it to about beauty but loving the skin I'm in. That's the best thing about summer: loving the skin, getting out, showing out, and enjoying the breeze.

On What Pride Means to Her

Pride is literally the essence of every day, and we get a month to really understand what that means. Pride is something that is transfixed and powerful with all elements—and it's something that we deal in every single day with every step we make. And I think right now, Pride is a moment where we can really just celebrate as our most authentic selves: showing up and showing the world how beautiful and how rich we are.

This Pride season is just about aligning with what's going on in the world. What are we talking about in our world? We're talking about people speaking about who they are. And these brands are really making sure that the quotes are right this time. Pride is something that is really magical for me this year.

I also have two films coming out. And it's a celebration of being alive and being seen in the world. Having these partnerships with brands that really want to cater to the realism of my existence. And the realism of many people like me's existence—like the children at GLSEN who are all around the world and just trying to figure out who they are and where they belong. I just really want to have that moment.

On Her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

I felt like I was being seen in a different realm of our humanity, in different spaces in the world that I have a desire to infiltrate. There's this dialogue of "just being unique" today. Back in the day, when I was in school, to be special and to be different was not cool. While trans and Black people are being murdered, we need these moments to really symbolize the goodness in the world that's happening.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago, where being my most authentic self was like trying to survive. And I was lucky to have organizations after school that really helped position me to be where I'm at today. And I look back, and I say to myself, "Girl, you really did it. You really found the people and created a community and pushed yourself to the limits to really have this moment." So I live every single day to the fullest. And when I got Sports Illustrated, it was a day that will go down in history. I can live for today and tomorrow, but also live forever.

I love those moments, and we really, really deserve those moments. Having it happen right now around Pride and seeing so many brands like John Frieda see me as this person that is a beacon of hope. It truly is a time to be born into—to be reborn into. I owe so much to the people that really helped me to be here to tell my story.

When I got Sports Illustrated, it was a day that will go down in history. I can live for today and tomorrow, but also live forever.

On Representation

I am a woman of color that is Black and Asian, I'm a trans woman, and I am a woman. I am part of these communities of such power, and these communities have allowed me to plant seeds. From childhood, I was being watered by all these people and all these moments, and it allowed me to go into different directions, different parts of the world.

The sports world right now is really tapping into these new ideas around gender and trans visibility and how it is intersectional in a lot of ways. I'm planting seeds in those communities. Being queer or trans in the sports world was nonexistent as a child. So now that I can be in a place where I can say, "This is where I come from, this is when I can add to this." That's something really important for me: making sure I don't limit the space I'm in.

We all need to get out in the world and show how beautiful and colorful we are. And I want to do that in every single space, every single room I go into.

We all need to get out in the world and show how beautiful and colorful we are. And I want to do that in every single space, every single room I go into.

On the Best Advice She's Ever Received

I'm gonna give you two things that I think about every single day. Be patient when things are unfolding. Things are happening at a fast pace, and many people are trying to grab for the light. These people that have been voiceless for so many years are trying to be seen. So be patient in yourself, in your development, your growth, and who you are.

When you show up, make sure you come as 100 percent authentically who you are. Everyone is on this journey of trying to redefine what they've been lied to about in this world, and we have to be patient with those things. Being able to be in this position five years ago, 10 years ago, it was nonexistent. So the fact that there's been so much growth—I have to be patient.

And the second piece of advice I have is always to respect yourself. Always respect others and always demand respect and take care of people.

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