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Valentina Sampaio Is the First Trans Model in 'Sports Illustrated'

Valentina Sampaio on a red carpet.

Valentina Sampaio's career is truly unprecedented. After telling the world that she was trans in a project with L'Oreal Paris in 2016 for International Women's Day, she's made history multiple times over. Shortly after her video with L'Oreal, she became the second trans model to cover Elle Brazil, following Lea T. She's since gone on to become the first model to cover any edition of Vogue, with the prestigious French Vogue in February 2017. Last year she booked jobs with Victoria's Secret, becoming the first trans model to do so, and now, she is a Rookie in the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, a title that has shot many models into Super status, translating their industry credibility into mainstream appeal.

But as her star continues to ascend, it is not lost on her that many people who share her experience are much less fortunate.

"I am excited and honored to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue," she wrote in an Instagram post. "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," she continued. "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 dignified work are unimaginably limited and challenging."

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit joins institutions from the Girl Scouts of the USA to Miss Universe in recognizing the simple fact that trans women are women," Anthony Ramos, GLAAD’s head of talent, said in a statement. "Talented women like Valentina Sampaio deserve to be spotlighted and given equal opportunities. Her work in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is a significant step forward as the modeling industry continues its evolution on traditional standards of inclusion.”

RELATED | Born Beautiful: A Short History of Trans Models in Fashion

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