Valentina Sampaio Becomes First Trans Model to Appear in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday July 15, 2020

Valentina Sampaio wears a creation from the Amir Slama collection during Sao Paulo Fashion Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Valentina Sampaio wears a creation from the Amir Slama collection during Sao Paulo Fashion Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil.   (Source:AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio has already made history as an openly transgender model for Victoria's Secret and for making the cover of Vogue Paris. Now she's kicked down another door in being chosen to appear in this year's Sport's Illustrated swimsuit issue, reports U.K. newspaper The Guardian.

Sampaio, 23, took to Instagram to share the news

"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."

View this post on Instagram

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. 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 U.S. 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. ??????????????????

A post shared by Valentina Sampaio (@valentts) on

Though Forbes notes Sampaio was not one of the three models chosen to appear on the cover for the 2020 swimsuit issue, her inclusion - as one of eight models so distinguished - is remarkable not just in making history, but also for the way in which Sampaio made use of the achievement as a platform to decry anti-trans abuse and violence.

"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," she wrote at Instagram.

Sampaio expanded on that theme at Instagram, pointing out that Brazil is an even more dangerous country than the United States for those who are not cisgender. In fact, Brazil is the most dangerous nation in the world for trans people, with rates of anti-trans violence being "three times that of the US," Sampaio pointed out.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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