Story at a glance

  • Valentina Sampaio is a 23-year-old transgender model and actress from Brazil.
  • Her appearance in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition is historic for the LGBTQ+ community, which is underrepresented in media.
  • In a release, the model speaks about the importance of her representation as a transgender model.

At 23, Valentina Sampaio has already secured a place in history. The Brazilian model and actress shatters a new glass ceiling with each step in her rise as one of the first openly transgender women in an industry with a history of discriminating against transgender people.

Her latest achievement is becoming the first openly transgender model to land a spot in the Sports Illustrated (SI) swimsuit issue.


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“I am excited and honored to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The team at SI has created yet another groundbreaking issue by bringing together a diverse set of multitalented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way,” she said in a release.

Sampaio has been the first transgender model on the cover of Vogue and to be hired by Victoria’s Secret. The hire came less than a year after Victoria’s Secret's chief marketing officer Edward Razek said "transsexuals" should not be featured in the brand’s shows. Razek, who was accused of inappropriate conduct towards models, has since apologized for the comment and retired. 

Born in Aquiraz, a fishing village in northern Brazil, Sampaio comes from the world’s deadliest country for the transgender community, according to a report by the National Association of Travestis and Trans People (Antra). In 2019, at least 124 transgender people were killed in Brazil, despite the Supreme Court's decision criminalizing acts of hate against gay and transgender people. 

"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," Sampaio said. “I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can.” 


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Published on Jul 10, 2020