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Show Up and Show Out: Leyna Bloom

August 08 2017
Leyna in the Coastal Suit and Lookout Drawstring Parka

Photos by Anastasia Garcia

 

Leyna Bloom is a force to be reckoned with. 

 

Ever since she first stormed the runway at Chromat’s AW16: Mindfiles show, we knew we were in the company of a strong, unapologetic #ChromatBABE. Since that first catwalk, Leyna’s illuminating presence and incredible story has inspired us everyday. Read on to hear how she found her voice as a proud transgender woman, model and activist.

Leyna in the Klymit Inflatable Dress and Gaby Ouellet in the Inflatable Stole and Lookout Drawstring Crop
     
    
Are there any women in your life right now that give you strength? What about them inspires you?
 
My fellow Pinay sister Geena Rocero and Janet Mock – these two women give me chills for their intelligence and the way they speak and demand to be heard and respected. Every time they open their mouth, you brace yourself for the abundance of knowledge and power these two women are gifted with. I'm so fascinated by both these island girls; they have come so far in their life and have experienced so much to have the guts and courage to be so radical in this movement that I'm so glad to be apart of.
They make me proud to be Trans.
Every moment I have to use my voice and my platform, I hope I can do it justice like them.  I'm so lucky to stand next to them in the fight for a better tomorrow for everyone. I wish growing up as a young trans girl I had role models like them.
 

Leyna in the Deep Green Amelia Suit and Lookout Inflatable Parka

 
Who were some of your role models when you were growing up? 
 
Growing up I often found myself attracted to alpha women that were built and ready to take control. Every video game, every comic book, every cartoon show that had a leading women on the same level as men – like Storm, Rouge, Jean Grey, Laura Croft from Tomb Raider and Queen Amidala from Star Wars. My all-time favorite was Natalie Portman in her first movie The Professional and Leeloo from the Fifth Element. Women with a purpose that are taking control of their life with intelligence and beauty to fight and help the world, I love that. I inspire to be like these Amazonian women, these new age leaders that kids look up to. These female figures gave me my magic to fight in the real world.
 
   
Gaby in the  Lookout Inflatable Parka and  Leyna in the Buoy Inflatable Vest
     
I read that you shared the stage with Missy Copeland at age 14. What was that like and how did you get into dance?
 
My great-grand mother Louise was a dancer and a dance teacher. She had a dance school in her house. My aunt was also a dancer; she danced with Sammy Davis Jr. My cousin is a famous tap dancer: Lee Howard. My entire family was filled with creative people dancers, artists, models; my dad modeled and was a DJ and an artist.  So it was inevitable for me to fall in my family tradition.
 
I first started dancing when I was in the 6th grade. My great-grand mother saw me dancing around the house and decided I would be her last student. Right then and there, my life changed. I had a purpose. I started dancing right away, taking classes on the weekends in ballet, tap dance, modern, hip hop, lyrical and more.
 
I then started to dance for the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago for the summer intensive program where I was paid to do what I love instead of being on the streets of Chicago. I had the opportunity to be in Swan Lake at the Lyric Opera House in downtown Chicago; I had a small part on stage with the American Ballet Theater. It was 2 performances a day every day, 7 days a week.
I was able to see Misty Copeland before she became a principle dancer, and
I remember seeing the focus in her eyes, I knew this woman would change the world of ballet and break barriers.
It was a moment I will never forget. From that moment on, the opportunities grew and I was accepted into the Chicago Academy for the Arts where I received a full scholarship to do what I love: to dance. 
Leyna in the Longboard Suit and Lookout Inflatable Crop
 
You teach dance classes to kids. Why do you feel it’s important to give back and inspire the next generation?
 
Yes, most recently I taught a Voguing class at this amazing school in lower Manhattan called University Neighborhood HS. As part of pride month I came in and taught the 5 elements of Vogue and then I spoke with them and shared personal stories. It was so beautiful. It’s so important to connect with the younger generation, they are the future.
 
Growing up, there was no one like me in my everyday life. Trans people did not exist in public spaces. It’s imperative and my duty to help create this new world that we have a place in.

 

Leyna in the Volta Inflatable Coat
 
I’m obsessed with that video of you in the Voguing competition. How did you get into ballroom scene and what have you learned from being a part of it?
 
Oh yes that’s the Icon ball in Atlanta. That moment was my rebirth back in the ballroom scene- I started going to balls and walking balls when I was around 16 years old. The category you saw me make that entrance for was Face (the most beautiful).
 
I left the ballroom scene for a while, I took a few years off to find myself and create a life for myself, so that was my moment to come back to the scene as a grown women. I’m the mother of the House of Miyake Mugler in New York. We couldn’t join the sports teams at school so I got into ballroom as it was the only safe place where I could grow and be competitive within the LGBT community. Folks like myself can use our imagination to be creative and win prizes and trophies. It was a great extracurricular activity to escape from the real world.
Leyna in the Amelia Suit, Coastal Suit and Dune Suit
 
You recently visited your Mom in the Philippines. What was that experience like?
 
Well that was my first time seeing my mom since I was two years old. My mom was never in my life; she was deported out of the country by immigration so I was raised by my father. He was single parent. But I never stopped looking for my mom; I looked for her my entire life. So as soon as I found her, I took a plane and spent six months in the Philippines catching up on all the time apart.
 
I also got to model in my homeland, which was truly amazing in itself.
There are not many Afropinoys, let alone African people, in the media in the Philippines so it was also a moment to create a new lane and show a different type of beauty there.

 

Leyna in the Lookout Inflatable Crop 
    
   
What inspired you to start telling your story as a transgender woman? 
 
The opportunity to start telling my story came when I modeled on the cover of Candy Magazine with 13 other trans women [including Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Juliana Huxtable, Carmen Carrera, Geena Rocero and Isis King]. At that time I was working as a cis-gendered women in fashion and was not open about being trans. I got the email to model for Candy and it was a moment I could not pass up – a moment I had been waiting for. It changed my life. It was a moment I truly felt liberated for the first time in my life as an adult. It just felt right; the timing was perfect. It was the first time in history that that many trans women were featured on a cover of a major magazine together – we made history that year.
Candy Mag Cover
 
What has been your family's reaction to your accomplishments in modeling and activism? 
 
My dad was an activist and he was always sharing stories and movies about Malcom X and the Black Panthers when I was a kid. Growing up in Chicago, it was in my blood to resist and stand up for the greater good.
 
I am so lucky I have found my voice; so many years I didn’t have a voice to stand up. I wanted to make sure when I spoke up I had something important to say. My dad always tells me how proud he is of me- that’s what keeps me going. There is still so much work to be done.
Leyna in the Horizon Suit and Tidal Suit at the MAC x Chromat Launch shot by Maro Hagopian
 
What article of clothing or way of presenting makes you feel powerful?
 
I’m a firm believer that whatever you wear, own it. You wear the clothing; it doesn’t wear you.
 
Leyna in the Klymit Inflatable Fascinator
 
What's your favorite Chromat piece and why? 
 
I’m a big fan of my cage bustier tops. I just love how Becca designed it. It was also my first Chromat purchase, it's like my armor – its sexy and bold and it makes a statement every time. I get so many compliments and I feel so sexy and myself in it. If I were a super hero, my look would be Chromat.
 
Cage Bustier
 
What was your experience shooting the AW17 Buoyancy collection with photographer Anastasia Garcia and the Chromat Team?
 
When I got the email to shoot the AW17 Buoyancy collection I was so excited – it was like yes! Another amazing moment in my career to work with Chromat, this innovative force of new age fashion! Literally the entire Chromat family is all so gifted and creative. It’s amazing to work with people that are changing fashion and making it inclusive for everyone.
 
Leyna Runway
 
What does it feel like to walk the Chromat runways? Do you get nervous? 
 
Chromat put me on the map for New York Fashion Week. Before I walked in their show, no one would work with me. I was told I would never do runway because I was too short and I didn’t fit the standards to be a runway model. Plus I was a trans women of color and no one was booking models like that. Chromat booked me four times and I closed two of the most diverse shows of fashion week consecutively year after year. Knowing that, it feels fucking amazing!
I never get nervous. I show up and show out.
This what I was born to do, regardless of what any one says!!!!!!! I look forward to working with my sisters Denise Bidot and Maya Mones. We wear our armor strong every time.
 
Leyna in the Trinity Top and Hyperwave Harness, shot by Nico Amarca backstage at SS17
 
If you weren't in the fashion/dance/entertainment industry, what other profession could you see yourself in?
 
If I wasn’t working in the entertainment industry, I would probably be working with teenagers, helping them find themselves and guiding them on the path of self-love. Preparing them for the real world to be strong forces to be reckoned with, helping them to be better leaders for tomorrow.
       
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Follow Leyna here
AW17 BUOYANCY PHOTOS BY ANASTASIA GARCIA
Hair: Beth Shanefelter
Makeup: Fatima Thomas, MAC
With model Gaby Ouellet