The Filipina-Nigerian trans woman actress tells the importance of representation in a conversation with Levi’s
Pinoy pride, for many Filipinos, may seem cliché and overrated. But you cannot deny that seeing one of our kababayan out in the world making a mark for themselves gives us a sense of joy and inspiration that if he or she can do it, then so can anybody else.
The latest to join the rank of remarkable Filipinos is Leyna Bloom. Throughout her career, she has ticked off many firsts—from her presence at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 to her 2021 editorial spread in Sports Illustrated magazine—proving that she’s here to take spaces and control her own narrative.
As one of the latest faces of American clothing brand Levi’s, the fashion model and activist chats with journalist Melissa Magsaysay and dives deep on the power given to her by her Filipina roots.
In the interview, Leyna says that although she wasn’t raised as a black growing up in Chicago, Filipina influences were present around her, giving her the idea of what a life of a Filipino is about.
“I’m often thinking about the beauty in that culture. I’m often thinking about being a Filipina woman coming up in General Santos City, being around such greenery and such livestock,” she says. “And so much happiness and indigenous people, that don’t need the things that I’m needing in this big metropolitan world to survive. And what do they pull from? From happiness.”
Among the many things and people that introduced her to the Filipino culture are her Pinoy acting mentors. From that point, she learned words from the Filipino language, marked herself with a “Mahal Kita” tattoo, discovered the Philippines through dishes, and went on to discover a fantasy world filled with gods and goddesses from Filipino folklore.
“When we look out into the horizon, we need to see collectives of ideas and experiences and different ways of living,” Lenya muses. “I didn’t just see black and white. I saw color. That gave me so much power. So, I’m giving them justice and their dreams are living through me.”
Apart from being an ambassador for Levi’s, Leyna also debuted in the ballroom scene with the TV show “Pose,” portraying the character Pretentia Khan for its final season. Much like the show’s plot and goal, the actress continues to fight for space and create real stories, things that were once not given to woman of color and transgendered individuals.
“I think it’s so powerful when I see another Filipina that is out here in spaces, creating change and doing it with their passion and their love for who they are and where they come from in the world,” Leyna says.
“Outside of being Filipino or being African, which are two of the most marginalized communities in the world, we understand how much power we have and how much the world doesn’t see that, and how we have to see it in ourselves,” she continues. “We have to come together and congregate together in order to go out in the world and really represent that.”
Read her full interview here.