Meet the trailblazing trans model making history in the pages of Sports Illustrated – and using her platform to highlight LGBT+ rights

trans Sports Illustrated model Valentina Sampaio

Model Valentina Sampaio just made history as the first-ever trans woman photographed for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

Sampaio is truly a trailblazer, having already become the first trans model to appear on the cover of Vogue, and the first trans woman to model for Victoria’s Secret. 

She wrote an essay for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition about what being featured as a trans model means to her, especially being from Brazil.

She wrote: “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.

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

“We face snickers, insults, fearful reactions and physical violations just for existing… I recognise that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honour that as best I can.”

She added: “Thank you SI for seeing and respecting me as I truly am. For understanding that more than anything, I am human.”

Valentina Sampaio tells Sports Illustrated about her ‘heartbreaking’ first modelling job.

In a Q and A, the model shared the story of her first professional modelling job, when she was fired minutes before shooting began.

She said: “I was told that the client felt it was ‘inappropriate’ for me to represent the brand because my images would be included in a catalog ‘entering into family households’.

“They made me feel as though it would be seen as immoral and scandalous for me to be a brand ambassador for them. It was heartbreaking for me on many levels.”

Sampaio also revealed that if she could go back in time and personally witness any event in history, she would choose the Stonewall riots.

Sports Illustrated editor in chief MJ Day told Vogue: “Our goal in selecting who we feature is centred around identifying some of the most inspiring, interesting, and multidimensional women that we can find.

“We are deeply moved that Valentina was willing to put her trust in us.

“We didn’t think twice about wanting to amplify her voice and message and give her a platform to advocate from on behalf of her personal aspirations and the trans community.”

In May, 2019, professional soccer player and captain of the US Women’s National Team Megan Rapinoe became the first openly gay woman to appear in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.



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