Valentina Sampaio, a Brazilian model has made history by becoming the first ever transgender model to feature in the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, the US magazine said Friday. Valentina comes from a small fishing village in Brazil, but aspires to use her platform to fight for trans rights. In a video on her Instagram, she shared how the beauty of Brazil was the complete opposite of the brutality and hatred faced by the transgender community in Brazil. She also added that 129 transgender people were murdered in Brazil in 2019 alone.
The model has several achievements to her name, including becoming the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017 and to be the first openly transgender model to be hired by lingerie giant, Victoria’s Secret. Sports Illustrated is a repectable brand, and Valentina is joining the likes of supermodels like Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks, who have also been featured in the magazine. In fact, according to an AFP report, for years Sports Illustrated featured only white models, but evetually diversified. In 1997, Tyra became the first Black woman to appear on its cover.
According to Sports Illustrated, Valentina’s photoshoot took place at Scrub Island, in the British Virgin Islands. Sharing her excitement about the feature, the 23-year-old model wrote on her Instagram, “I am excited and honoured 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.”
She continued, “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.”
Sharing her struggles as a trans individual, Valentina went on, “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.”
The Brazilian model also shared a video of herself speaking to Sports Illustrated, where she talks about the difficulties of being trans in Brazil. She captioned the video, “I feel strong, and I feel inspired to fight, not just for me but for everyone who faces discrimination.”