Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue will be graced by its first transgender model as Brazilian Valentina Sampaio makes her debut in the annual edition of glamorous women in gorgeous swimwear.
Sampaio is a trailblazer for trans rights and visibility, previously appearing as the first openly trans Victoria’s Secret model.
She says her appearance in the iconic publication is part of her ongoing fight.
“I feel strong, and I feel inspired to fight, not just for me but for everyone that I represent,” Sampaio said in a video released by Sports Illustrated ahead of the issue’s release on July 21.
The 23-year-old wrote online about the challenges of growing up trans in her native Brazil, revealing what she has overcome to reach this point in her career.
“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,” Sampaio wrote on Instagram.
“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.
“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.”
Sampaio, who hails from what she describes as a “remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil” has long opened doors for the trans community with some of fashion’s most high-profile brands.
She appeared on the cover of Vogue Paris in March 2017, the first openly trans model to get the cover in any edition of the fashion bible.
In 2019, she was announced as the first openly transgender Victoria’s Secret model.
That came soon after Victoria’s Secret former chief marketing officer Ed Razek caused outrage with his comment that “transsexuals” would not be cast in the brand’s annual fashion show.
“Sports Illustrated Swimsuit joins institutions from the Girl Scouts of the USA to Miss Universe in recognising the simple fact that trans women are women,” said Anthony Ramos, the group’s head of talent, in an email to the Los Angeles Times.
“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.”