Valentina Sampaio has just made history, becoming the first ever transgender model to star in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.
The 23-year-old Brazilian model was named SI Swimsuit 2020 Rookie on Friday, making her the first transgender model to ever hold that title and feature in the mag.
Sharing the news on her Instagram page, Sampaio wrote that she is “excited and honoured” by the news, but acknowledged that trans people still face “closed doors” all the time.
“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 US,” she wrote.
“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.”
Transgender women especially face disproportionate levels of violence — both sexual and physical — and much higher rates of suicide.
Now Sampaio hopes that she can “honour” the rest of the transgender community by making the most of the opportunities she’s been given – opportunities many other trans women never see.
In an essay for Sports Illustrated, she thanked the magazine for respecting her as she truly is, writing: “Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL.”
But this isn’t the first time Sampaio has shaken up the fashion industry and brought awareness to transgender models.
In fact, you may recognise her from the first time she made history when she became Victoria’s Secret’s first openly trans model last year.
The decision to cast Sampaio — who was also the first transgender model to cover any edition of Vogue when she was featured in Vogue Paris in 2017 — followed months of backlash aimed at the lingerie brand urging it to adopt a “more inclusive approach”.
The brand suffered serious backlash after Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek made comments in 2018 suggesting the brand would reject plus size or transgender models.
Sampaio was later brought on as a model, the lingerie giant making strides to be more inclusive following outrage over Razek’s comments.
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