Making it in an industry as competitive as fashion hardly comes down to an “ask and you shall receive” path to success. And yet speaking with model, actress, dancer, and activist Leyna Bloom can make one feel there’s something to be said for articulating what you want out loud, directly, and perhaps even in a public forum.
That’s what she did back in 2018 in a now viral tweet campaigning for her to be the first openly trans woman to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. A year later that specific request hasn’t come to fruition, but Bloom set herself on a path to open shows at New York Fashion Week, be the first trans woman of color to premiere a film at Cannes, and, as of today, become the face of a major lingerie brand.
“I’m often looking for brands who want to be progressive and challenge society norms,” says Bloom of her latest project, Playful Promises’ 15th anniversary campaign. “I noticed that they worked with all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
While Bloom’s no stranger to being a leader—in the fashion industry and especially within the LGBTQIA+ community—she’s not the first trans woman to star as a face of Playful Promises: Dani St. James fronted the London-based brand’s Valentine’s Day campaign this year, which speaks volumes about its continued commitment to representation.
“There’s so much history to be made in the world, especially with black trans women,” Bloom says over the phone, adding, “It wasn’t like other projects that [cast trans models] because they have a quota or it’s a trend.”
The just-released images place Bloom center stage in sheer bodysuits and floral-embroidered bra and panty sets, sometimes surrounded by a cast of models and professional burlesque dancers. (The shoot was inspired by ballroom culture.) The campaign is inclusive not just in its casting but also in its product: The sizing ranges from 4 to 22, with bras in 30–34 A–K and 36–44 B–K. Prices will be accessible too, with everything under $70.
The photos are just as stunning as one might expect from the Chicago native, who’s no stranger to the red carpet or the runway. Yet the significance of this moment carries an intimate meaning for her.
“As a young black trans woman, the first money I got to invest in my transition was in lingerie,” she says. “It means a lot to me. It’s like putting on foundation or buying mascara from the local pharmacy. It’s an experience that we cherish. The thing about Playful Promises is that it represents everyone who feels that lingerie brings their femininity to the next level…. That’s what fashion and being part of a fantasy is about.”
In more ways than one, this campaign comes full circle for Bloom. It honors her path to defining her own femininity, it celebrates her identity in a way other lingerie brands have chosen not to, and it even confirms advice the multihyphenate artist lives by. “My dad always told me that if you want something, just speak up,” she says. “And that’s exactly what I did.”
— Leyna Bloom (@leynabloom) April 9, 2018
While this specific path to success was hardly based on one goal-oriented tweet, Bloom continues to be very clear in her intentions in her work going forward. “I just want to continue doing projects that represent me. I think that the impact that it will have on people is, hopefully, that they can see sensuality, sexuality, transsexuality, and femininity in a different light, and people can be inspired to love themselves more,” she says. “That’s what I do in everything I do—whether it’s movies, walking runways, doing editorials, or walking into a room at an event and shaking hands. I want to be able to be a presence, and I want to be able to inspire. And if I can do that while wearing a two-piece lingerie, why not?”