Valentina Sampaio becomes first-ever transgender model to appear in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue

Chelsea Ritschel
·2-min read

Valentina Sampaio has become the first-ever transgender model to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

On Friday, the 23-year-old model from Brazil made history when she was named SI Swimsuit 2020 Rookie.

According to Sampaio, who discussed what the opportunity means to her in an essay written on the magazine’s website, she is “excited and honoured”.

“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.”

Acknowledging that she is one of the “fortunate” ones, Sampaio continued: “My intention is to honour that as best I can.”

The model, who also made history when she became Victoria’s Secret’s first openly transgender model in August 2019, concluded the essay thanking SI for the opportunity and for “respecting me as I truly am”.

“For understanding that more than anything, I am human,” she wrote. “Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL.”

On Instagram, where Sampaio shared a photo taken by photographer Josie Clough during the photo shoot on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands, fans applauded the model for her achievement.

“Congrats Valentina!!! You are representing us. And you are representing your country, and above all, you are representing YOU - and beautifully so,” one person wrote.

Another said: “Keep breaking grounds you powerful luminous goddess.”

The 2020 SI Swimsuit issue will be on stands 21 July.

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