Leyna Bloom Becomes 1st Transgender Model to Cover 'Sports Illustrated' Swimsuit Issue: 'A Living Testament'

"I owe this to them," Leyna Bloom tells PEOPLE of her transgender predecessors after she made history as the first trans cover model for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

Leyna Bloom has made history as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue's first transgender cover model.

The Chicago-born model/actress opened up about the historic moment Monday on PEOPLE (The TV Show!), explaining that she feels "happiness on top of happiness on top of happiness." She models a plunging, white one-piece on her solo cover, as Megan Thee Stallion and Naomi Osaka appear on covers of their own.

"It is a true marvel to be born in a time where we can have moments like this," Bloom said, crediting the transgender pioneers who came before her. "So many other trans bodies have come before me to give me inspiration that can breathe through me in this moment.

"And we can share this together. There are so many trans women I've looked up to over the years, that have inspired me to go after my dreams. So, this is a living testament that everything that they worked hard for was for a reason, and I owe this to them."

Bloom revealed her cover, photographed by Yu Tsai, sharing it with her more than 400,000 Instagram followers on Monday. "This moment heals a lot of pain in the world," she wrote in part. "We deserve this moment; we have waited millions of years to show up as survivors and be seen as full humans filled with wonder."

The Port Authority actress has also become the first Black and Asian-American transgender person to appear in the issue. Her historic cover comes after Valentina Sampaio broke ground last year as the first transgender model to appear inside the coveted Swimsuit Issue.

SI editor-in-chief MJ Day also opened up about this year's issue, the theme of which is "Opening Eyes, Speaking Truths and Changing Minds," and the significance of its models. "If there's one thing that our cover models have in common, it's that they don't have one thing in common," she said in a statement. "They look different, have different upbringings, have different passions and inspirations."

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"But each is a reminder that beauty comes in many forms," Day continued. "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."

You can get Leyna Bloom's historic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue when it hits newsstands Thursday.

Listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Leyna Bloom's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover and the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

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