Transgender model Leyna Bloom has made Sports Illustrated Swimsuit history for a second time after becoming the first-ever trans cover star to pose on the front of the magazine – weeks after she was named as the first black and Asian trans woman to feature in its pages.
The 27-year-old fashion star is one of three women to land a cover shoot for this year’s issue of the iconic magazine, posing on the front of one version of the publication, while tennis star Naomi Osaka and rapper Megan Thee Stallion appear on the other two.
On her cover, Leyna is seen posing in a plunging white one-piece bathing suit, while kneeling in the sand on a beach and pouting seductively at the camera. Grand Slam winner Naomi, 23, also modeled a one-piece for her cover shoot, which sees her striking a power pose while wearing a leather bathing suit with several sheer panels, allowing her to put her athletic figure on full display.
Megan, 26, is the only cover star to appear in a bikini – a skimpy beige design with a zip closure on the front, which the Savage rapper is seen seductively pulling down as she glares into the camera.
History maker: Model Leyna Bloom has become the first-ever transgender woman to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, weeks after she made history as its first black and Asian trans star
On show: Tennis pro Naomi Osaka also landed a cover of this year’s issue, which comes just weeks after she dropped out of the French Open following furious controversy over her refusal to do any press as the tournament
Three is the magic number! Savage rapper Megan Thee Stallion snagged the third cover of this year’s issue, marking the first time that the chart-topper has appeared in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit
According to the magazine’s editor-in-chief, MJ Day, the three women were chosen to show that ‘beauty comes in many forms’ and to ‘solidify’ Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s commitment to featuring more ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ in its pages.
‘If there’s one thing that our cover models have in common, it’s that they don’t have one thing in common,’ MJ said in a statement. ‘They look different, have different upbringings, have different passions and inspirations.
‘But each is a reminder that beauty comes in many forms.
‘Leyna Bloom makes history as the first transgender cover model in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s history, and the first trans person of color to appear on our pages, solidifying the fact that the more diverse and inclusive a community, the stronger it becomes.
‘We celebrate Naomi for her passion, strength and power geared towards consistently breaking barriers when it comes to equality, social justice and mental health.
‘As for Megan Thee Stallion, she is a magnetic powerhouse taking the world by storm. Together these women represent three of the most powerful voices of today.’
In a series of videos shared on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Instagram account, the three women were seen speaking about their cover shoots – having been surprised with the images by MJ.
Leyna described the moment as a ‘dream come true’, while admitting that she never thought she would even land a shoot in the magazine’s pages, let alone serve as one of its cover stars.
‘I remember the first time I saw a Sports Illustrated issue for Swimsuit which was when Tyra Banks was on the cover,’ she said.
‘I just was like, wow. And you’re flipping through the pages and you see so many different races and colors and body types.
‘And you think something like that would probably never happen to me but this is beautiful to see. This is representing all these different women.
‘So fast forward years later, my agent called me and he was like, “You are going to be a Sports Illustrated model!”
‘It’s like the universe is kind of circling back around saying, “Your moment is now.” It’s a true dream come true.’
Boundary breaker: In March, the magazine revealed several images and behind-the-scenes videos from Leyna’s shoot, revealing that she would become the first-ever black and Asian transgender model to appear in its pages
‘Proud’: Naomi described her cover shoot as a ‘dream’, while saying that she is ‘proud to be the first Japanese and Haitian woman to grace’ the front of the publication
The three women were first revealed as this year’s cover stars on Monday morning; while Leyna had previously been revealed as one of the models included in the 2021 issue, both Megan and Naomi’s participation was kept a closely-guarded secret, with no images shared of the two ladies ahead of the cover announcement.
In March, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shared images and behind-the-scenes video from Leyna’s shoot, with the trans model opening up to GMA at the time about her boundary-breaking accomplishment.
‘I never imagined that I would be born in a time when something like this would happen for someone with my skin tone and for someone with my background,’ she said.
‘This is a magazine that says we’re allowed to be beautiful in all our shapes and sizes, and that should be loved, because we’re not often seen in that way.’
Naomi’s appearance on the front of the magazine comes just days after the tennis star debuted a documentary for Netflix, in which she is seen speaking out about her struggle to deal with the ‘ridiculous amount of attention’ that she receives, amid furious backlash over her refusal to fulfill any of her media obligations at this year’s French Open.
In May, Naomi announced that she would not take part in any press conferences at the tournament, releasing a statement on Twitter in which she cited her mental health as the reason for her decision not to speak to press.
Naomi was fined $15,000 by officials for refusing to appear in front of the media after her first-round match, with organizers saying she would face ‘more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions’ if she continued her boycott. Soon after, the tennis star withdrew from the tournament altogether.
In her Netflix docu-series, Naomi spoke about her decision to quit the French Open, while opening up about her struggles with depression and anxiety, which began after her victory over Serena Williams in the US Open final in 2018.
Naomi won the match 6-2, 6-4, but her victory was overshadowed by the bitter controversy that erupted over Serena’s on-court arguments with chair umpire Carlos Ramos of Portugal, who issued her with a string of fines.
As a result of the on-court drama, Naomi found herself thrust into the center of a media frenzy and she has remained very much in the spotlight ever since.
‘Before I won the US Open, so many people told my Dad I would never be anything,’ she said.
‘I think the amount of attention I get is kind of ridiculous — no one prepares you for that. I always have this pressure to maintain this sweet-pea image, but now I don’t care what anyone has to say.’