Valentina Sampaio Is the First Trans Model in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

Sampaio continues to be a trailblazing force for the trans community

Trans Model Valentina Sampaio
Valentina Sampaio is the first trans model to make the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / July 10, 2020 2:02 pm

Brazilian-born model Valentina Sampaio is making history again, this time as the first trans model to grace Sports Illustrated‘s famed swimsuit issue.

“I am excited and honored to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” wrote Sampaio. “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.”

The Sports Illustrated appearance marks Sampaio’s latest move as a trailblazer for the transgender community in the modeling industry. Last year, Sampaio became Victoria’s Secret’s first openly trans model, and back in 2017 she became the first trans model to appear on the cover of Vogue.

“Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds,” Sampaio wrote. “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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"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.” -Valentina Sampaio @valentts Our Instagram channel is a platform for inspiration, inclusivity and support. SI Swimsuit will not tolerate any hateful or offensive comments. Those who violate these terms will be deleted, blocked & reported.

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Sampaio’s history-making Sports Illustrated appearance marks the latest in a series of inclusive editorial decisions under longtime swimsuit issue editor MJ Day. In 2016, Day featured Ashley Graham as the magazine’s first plus-size model. Subsequent years saw the magazine’s first model to pose for the magazine in a hijab in Halima Aden, as well as Tyra Banks’s return to the swimsuit issue for the third time at the age of 45.

“Our goal in selecting who we feature is centered around identifying some of the most inspiring, interesting, and multidimensional women that we can find,” said Day. “We are deeply moved that Valentina was willing to put her trust in us,” she continued. “We didn’t think twice about wanting to amplify her voice and message and give her a platform to advocate from on behalf of her personal aspirations and the trans community.”

“Thank you SI for seeing and respecting me as I truly am. For understanding that more than anything, I am human,” Sampaio wrote. “Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL.”

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