It’s a busy time for Leyna Bloom, the Black and Filipina trans actor, model and LGBTQ+ advocate. She’s celebrating the May release of “Port Authority,” which is the first film starring a trans woman of color — Bloom — to debut at Cannes, in 2019. It’s not, however, the first “first” for Bloom: She was also the first Black and Asian trans woman to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and the first trans woman of color to appear in the pages of Vogue India, back in 2017. Now, Bloom has a partnership with hair brand John Frieda and nonprofit GLSEN for Pride Month. GLSEN’s mission is to keep schools safe and inclusive for LGBTQ + youth.
“For me to just live and breathe in any space, or to be partnering with any of these bigger brands, is a statement of activism,” she said.
Bloom grew up with a dearth of trans representation, so she never imagined that partnering with a brand like John Frieda would be a possibility for herself or any member of the trans community. “I’m just so happy that John Frieda celebrates people like me, and also wants to take a moment to celebrate the culture and collaborate with organizations like GLSEN. It’s just truly like: ‘You’re doing it right, and I want to be a part of that,’” Bloom said.
“In our partnership with GLSEN, we are working with a number of influencers to share their personal hair stories during Pride Month on John Frieda Hair Care’s social media platforms. [The purpose is] to raise both money for and awareness around building safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ youth,” said Sean Johnson, brand marketer at John Frieda. “The way Leyna Bloom describes the integral role that her hair played in her own, intimate trans journey is an incredible inspiration to this entire community.”
Throughout June, the brand is selling limited-edition products with Pride-themed packaging and rainbow-colored Teleties hair accessories. They’re available at retailers including Target and Amazon.
Experimenting with different hairstyles has been pivotal to her own self-experimentation and discovery, Bloom said. “When I was a child, my dad sometimes kept my hair really short. And sometimes he let me grow it out. And [with each change], I was seeing different parts of who I am and what I can create with myself. And I love that freedom to one day say, ‘I want to get some braids,’ and then put on a different energy and dress differently. For trans people and for queer people, it’s another way to express ourselves,” she said.
Though Bloom’s star is growing, she maintains that her approach to beauty will remain accessible. “When I go anywhere, if you walk past me, I will smell good and my hair will look really good. [Whether] it’s pulled back or it’s down, it will just be very effortless and flirty. My makeup will be super natural and easy and accessible. It’s not [going to be] some extreme designer. It’s like, ‘Hey, where’d you get this?’ And I’m like, ‘Girl I pulled up, and I got it from this place. You can go get it, and it was this price. You can get two for one.’”
As important as hair and beauty may be to Bloom, it’s the partnership with GLSEN that was the most important aspect of the John Frieda partnership. She relied on similar nonprofits when she was younger. “I’m really passionate about finding what works for us in the educational system,” Bloom said. “I’m talking to a lot of aunties and mothers and fathers about raising their trans daughters, and how they’re being bullied and how they’re thinking about suicide. Organizations like GLSEN are set up to help people in these communities and make sure that there are safe zones.” They’re also providing education about pronouns and about how to be safe when doing such simple things as using the bathroom, she said.
Overall, Bloom said she wants to use her platform to celebrate her community. “We are so unique, and we have every right to be here,” she said. “And we can use hair and fashion and makeup and, everything around us as elements to create. I love that [my] hair is getting me paid to talk about it.”