Valentina Sampaio has made history by becoming Sports Illustrated’s first transgender model to be featured in the magazine’s annual swimsuit issue.
“I was born trans in a remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil,” the model wrote in an Instagram post announcing she had been named 2020 Rookie in the issue set to be released later this month. “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.”
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.
A post shared by Valentina Sampaio (@valentts) on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:44am PDT
The 23-year-old model had already made history back in 2019 when it was announced she was hired by Victoria’s Secret as their first trans model for their Pink campaign, Vogue reported.
Sampaio spoke with PEOPLE magazine about the honor of being featured in Sports Illustrated.
“I was filled with so many emotions of happiness when I heard the news. The feeling was surreal,” Sampaio told PEOPLE. “Being in SI Swim has always been on my bucket list of things to achieve in my career. It’s a dream come true on so many levels. SI has been a deeply meaningful achievement. 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.”
Along with being featured as the first trans model to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017, Sampaio was featured in Pride Live’s global livestream last month to benefit LGBTQ+ organizations struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
She has used her platform to bring attention to trans rights across the world.
“It is rare to see a transgender person have a public-facing ‘official’ job,” she said to Vogue during an interview earlier this year. “Outside of Brazil, I have had the chance to meet trans people working in a great variety of professions. Salespeople in fashion, cashiers in supermarkets, makeup artists, security, and many other careers. It brings me great happiness to arrive somewhere and feel represented.”