Valentina Sampaio Is Sports Illustrated’s First Transgender Model

Valentina Sampaio is continuing to make history: she is officially the first transgender model to be featured in the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

According to a press release, the 23-year-old model is one of 8 Rookies in this year’s edition, which will hit stands on July 21. For the issue, Valentina was photographed by Josie Clough in a shoot on Scrub Island.

image of valentina sampaio
Josie Clough/Sports Illustrated: On Sale July 21

In a statement provided to SI Swim (and also shared to her Instagram account), Valentina expressed that she was “excited and honored” to be part of the upcoming issue. “Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds,” the Brazilian model continued. “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. I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can.”

During an interview with People, Valentina expanded on her dream of appearing in SI Swimsuit. “To come from a space of fear and marginalization, to now being included in one of the most iconic magazines that truly embraces and celebrates diversity — it is life changing.”

MJ Day, Editor of the SI Swim Issue, explained that the magazine aims to highlight “inspiring, interesting and multi-dimensional” women, adding that Valentina had been on their radar for a while. “We are deeply moved that Valentina was willing to put her trust in us and we didn’t think twice about wanting to amplify her voice, her message and give her a platform to advocate from on behalf of her personal aspirations and the trans community,” Day continued in a statement provided to Teen Vogue. “That is what we can do as a brand, especially during these uncertain times — support her and celebrate her.”

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