Valentina Sampaio Announced as First Transgender Model for Sports Illustrated
Valentina Sampaio is the first openly transgender woman to be featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
The magazine announced the historic milestone on Friday, but it’s not Sampaio’s first: last year, she became Victoria’s Secret’s first openly transgender model. In 2017, she was also the first openly transgender model to grace the cover of Vogue.
Sampaio faced many obstacles to get where she is today. She was born in a fishing village in northern Brazil, a country which has a culture of brutal intolerance towards trans people. She was fortunate enough to have extremely accepting and supportive parents who encouraged who to express herself freely. In a statement published on the Sports Illustrated website, she writes, “I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can. What unites us as humans is that we all share the common desire to be accepted and loved for who we are.”
Her beautiful appearance in the iconic swimsuit edition – the annual appearance of which is almost a cultural ritual – sends a strong message of solidarity with the trans community. There is still so much work to be done until liberation is achieved. To this day in the United States trans people, and especially black trans women, face tragically disproportionate levels of violence. The mainstream media have a powerful opportunity to normalize and validate the existence of trans people, and to use their platform in the ongoing fight for every human to freely be.
“Thank you SI for seeing and respecting me as I truly am,” Valentina Sampaio writes. “For understanding that more than anything, I am human. Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL.”