Valentina Sampaio: Sports Illustrated’s First Transgender Model

Trans-representation in the modelling industry has made progress. But there’s still a long way to go.

Victoria Secret Hires First Transgender Model | HYPEBAE
Photo Credit: Hypebae

Valentina Sampaio, Brazilian born model and actress, has made history, becoming the first openly transgender model in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue. Due for release on July 21, Sampaio will be the eighth and final Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2020 rookie.

In an Instagram post announcing the news, the 23-year-old model said:

“I am excited and honoured to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.”

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I am excited and honored to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The team at SI has created yet another groundbreaking issue by bringing together a diverse set of multitalented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way. I was born trans in a remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil. Brazil is a beautiful country, but it also hosts the highest number of violent crimes and murders against the trans community in the world—three times that of the U.S. Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds. We face snickers, insults, fearful reactions and physical violations just for existing. Our options for growing up in a loving and accepting family, having a fruitful experience at school or finding dignified work are unimaginably limited and challenging. 💜🧡💛❤️💚

A post shared by Valentina Sampaio (@valentts) on

In her caption, Sampaio also reminisced on the adversities she’s faced:

“Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds.”

In a personal essay published on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, Sampaio further expressed what being a part of the issue means to her. Born in a remote fishing village in northern Brazil, her journey to adulthood was like many other transgender persons lives. Life, school and work were challenging. According to the Trans Murder Monitoring program, between October 2018 and September 2019, Brazil had 130 murders of transgender people, one of the highest in the world. Sampaio has long been an advocate for transgender equality and acceptance, especially in her home country.

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#Repost @voguemagazine with @make_repost ・・・ Brazilian modeling star Valentina Sampaio (@valentts) is on a mission. At present, trans rights in Brazil are almost non-existent. The nation’s idyllic landscape conceals an ugly legacy of violence against trans people: it is ranked the number one country for murders of trans people according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project. The discrimination Brazil’s trans community faces daily, particularly when it comes to employment, is especially disconcerting. “It is rare to see a transgender person have a public-facing ‘official’ job,” explains Sampaio. “Outside of Brazil, I have had the chance to meet trans people working in a great variety of professions. Salespeople in fashion, cashiers in supermarkets, makeup artists, security, and many other careers. It brings me great happiness to arrive somewhere and feel represented.” Sadly, the level of success Sampaio has found abroad has yet to be replicated at home. “I am almost ashamed to say that I have been much more accepted outside of my own country,” she says. “Much is said about us during Pride month by the media in Brazil, but they don’t let us speak for ourselves. They do not allow our voice to be directly heard on their platforms.” A vocal advocate for the rights of trans people in her home country, Sampaio shares how she is leading by example during #Pride month and beyond at the link in our bio.

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Sampaio also shared in her personal essay, what it was like working with Sports Illustrated, and thanked the magazine for seeing and respecting her:

“Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL.”

Sampaio has previously made her mark by becoming Victoria’s Secret’s first transgender model in the PINK line in August 2019, and was the first transgender model to make the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017.

Likewise, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is also no stranger to breakthrough moments. It is a magazine known for pushing boundaries of conventional ideas of a woman’s appearance. In 2016, the magazine put Ashley Graham, its first size 16 model on its cover. And recently, in 2019, made history with Somali-American model Halima Aden as the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini in the magazine.

In short, the inclusion of Sampaio at Sports Illustrated marks progress for inclusivity in the modelling industry.

Check out Sampaio’s Q&A with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.

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