The model Valentina Sampaio has made history by becoming the first openly transgender model to be featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.
The 23-year-old Brazilian has been selected as a model for the issue that will be released on 21 July.
In 2017, Sampaio became the first openly trans model to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris and in 2019, she became the first openly trans model hired by Victoria’s Secret for its Pink line. It came a year after the company’s chief marketing officer Ed Razek told Vogue that trans people would not be cast in the lingerie brand’s fashion shows “because the show is a fantasy”. Razek quit the company in August of last year.
In a personal essay for the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, the model wrote about the historic moment and what it means for her community. “Being trans usually means facing closed doors to people’s hearts and minds. We face snickers, insults, fearful reactions and physical violations just for existing,” she noted. “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.”
In the essay, Sampaio shone a light on trans deaths in her home country. “I was born trans in a remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil,” she wrote. “[It] 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.”
According to the Advocate, 330 trans and nonbinary people were killed around the world last year; 130 of the killings happened in Brazil.
Anthony Ramos, Sports Illustrated’s head of talent, told the Los Angeles Times: “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit joins institutions from the Girl Scouts of the USA to Miss Universe in recognizing the simple fact that trans women are women. Talented women like Valentina Sampaio deserve to be spotlighted and given equal opportunities. Her work in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is a significant step forward as the modeling industry continues its evolution on traditional standards of inclusion.”
The model thanked the magazine “for understanding more than anything, I am human. Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL.”