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Culture

Valentina Sampaio is Sports Illustrated's first transgender swimsuit model

Valentina Sampaio is Sports Illustrated's first transgender swimsuit model

For the first time in its 56-year history, Sports Illustrated will feature a transgender model on its glossy cover. 23-year-old Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio will appear in the July issue, which hits stands early next week. Sampaio wrote on Instagram that she was "excited and honored" to be part of such an iconic issue, adding: "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."

A native of Fortaleza, a city in northeastern Brazil, Sampaio has been making history in the fashion world in recent years. She was already the first trans model to make the 2017 cover of Vogue Paris. Scouted while she was a young teen, she quickly made her way onto key runways in her home country. She managed to make an impression in a short time— launching her career at 18 years old—as L'Oréal Paris's first trans model. She hit another milestone last year, when she was the face of Victoria's Secret campaign, breaking barriers as the first trans woman working with the brand.




"Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples' hearts and minds," she wrote on Instagram. "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 mentions on her social media that her success hasn't come easy, as she's fighting against discrimination and using her voice and platform to advocate for LGBTQ rights. I feel strong and I feel inspired to fight," she wrote. "Not just for me, but for everyone who face[s] discrimination."

Even though our world is slowly changing, Sampaio claims that she was born trans in a remote fishing village, and although she loves her beautiful country, she doesn't feel accepted in Brazil. "It has the highest crime and murder rate against the trans community," she wrote.

According to a report filed by two transgender activists at the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights panel in D.C. on Sept. 13, 2019, 163 trans people were reported murdered in Brazil in 2018. According to The Blade, it represents 47% of all reported murders of transgender people globally. One of the activists, Bruna Benevides of Associação Nacional dos Travestis e Transsexuais (ANTRA), claimed "a trans person is killed every 48 hours in Brazil."

With Sampaio's visibility and voice, she's quoted by Sports Illustrated's Instagram account, claiming that she hopes to "give the world a good message of love and respect for every kind of human, for everyone." The magazine made sure to stand with her vision and support her cause for inclusion on their socials. SI notes that discrimination will absolutely not be tolerated. If you violate their conditions, they say "you will be deleted, blocked and reported."

Kudos to Sampaio for all her success and her vision for a brighter tomorrow.

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