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Home News Stories Sports Illustrated Swimsuit features first ever transgender model

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit features first ever transgender model

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Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio has made history by becoming the first transgender woman to grace the pages of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. 

The 23-year-old trailblazer, who has also posed for Victoria’s Secret, will appear in the publication’s 2020 issue after being photographed by Josie Clough on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands. 

Valentina appeared on Good Morning America on Friday to announce the news while sharing how much the opportunity means to her and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. 

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Breaking boundaries: Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio is the first transgender woman to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue

Breaking boundaries: Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio is the first transgender woman to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue

Stunning: The 23-year-old, who has also posed for Victoria's Secret, was photographed by Josie Clough on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands for her spread

 Stunning: The 23-year-old, who has also posed for Victoria’s Secret, was photographed by Josie Clough on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands for her spread

‘I was so surprised,’ she said. ‘It’s like a dream. This means a lot to me, and not just for myself, but to all the LGBT+ community.’

Valentina will be joining Brooks Nader, Josephine Skriver, Lorena Duran, Kim Riekenberg, Marquita Pring, Anita Marshall, and Hyunjoo Hwang as one of the eight Rookie models featured in this year’s edition, which hits newsstands on July 21. 

The model grew up trans in Northern Brazil as one of seven children in a family of fishermen. She said she struggled to find her place, and when she first started modeling, she would lose jobs because of her gender identity. 

‘It hasn’t been easy,’ she admitted. ‘Early on I had a high-profile modeling job where once they realized I was trans, I was suddenly fired.’

Perfect fit: In a statement to DailyMail.com, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day revealed that the magazine has had its eye on the impressive model for a while

Perfect fit: In a statement to DailyMail.com, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day revealed that the magazine has had its eye on the impressive model for a while

Proud: MJ said that Valentina is an 'impassioned activist [and] a true pioneer for the LGBT+ community,' describing her as a 'well-rounded woman'

Proud: MJ said that Valentina is an ‘impassioned activist [and] a true pioneer for the LGBT+ community,’ describing her as a ‘well-rounded woman’

‘I would say that it’s hard, but you have to keep strong,’ Valentina said of her message to others in the trans community.  

‘We all are human, and I love to see people, brands, and companies more open to fearlessly embracing the trans community with compassion and respect,’ she added. 

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day also appeared on GMA on Friday, saying ‘everything about Valentina is remarkable,’ from her ‘incredible beauty to her strength of character.’ 

In a statement to DailyMail.com, the editor revealed that the magazine has had its eye on the model for a while, and they feel honored to be able to amplify her voice.

Inspiration: The model is one of eight Rookies to be featured in this year's edition

Inspiration: The model is one of eight Rookies to be featured in this year’s edition

Early years: The model, who grew up trans in northern Brazil as one of seven children in a family of fishermen, said she struggled to find her place

Early years: The model, who grew up trans in northern Brazil as one of seven children in a family of fishermen, said she struggled to find her place 

Hard to handle: When Valentina first started modeling, she would lose jobs because of her gender identity

Hard to handle: When Valentina first started modeling, she would lose jobs because of her gender identity

Hard to handle: When Valentina first started modeling, she would lose jobs because of her gender identity

‘Our goal in selecting who we feature in the SI Swimsuit Issue is centered around identifying some of the most inspiring, interesting and multi-dimensional women that we can find,’ she said.  

‘Valentina has been on our radar for some time now and when we finally met face to face it became apparent that besides her obvious beauty, she is an impassioned activist, a true pioneer for the LGBT+ community and just simply embodies the well-rounded woman we are proud to have represent SI Swimsuit across our platforms,’ she continued. 

‘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. 

‘That is what we can do as a brand, especially during these uncertain times- support her and celebrate her.’ 

In a video shared on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s website and Instagram page, Valentina opened up about the difficulties of growing up trans in Brazil.   

Unforgettable moment: Valentina appeared on Good Morning America on Friday morning to announce the news

Unforgettable moment: Valentina appeared on Good Morning America on Friday morning to announce the news 

Obvious choice: MJ also appeared on GMA on Friday, saying 'everything about Valentina is remarkable,' from her 'incredible beauty to her strength of character'

Obvious choice: MJ also appeared on GMA on Friday, saying ‘everything about Valentina is remarkable,’ from her ‘incredible beauty to her strength of character’

Superstar: Valentina became the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017 and went on to star in other editions of the iconic fashion magazine

Superstar: Valentina became the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017 and went on to star in other editions of the iconic fashion magazine 

Making headlines: In 2019, she became the first trans model to be hired by Victoria's Secret

Making headlines: In 2019, she became the first trans model to be hired by Victoria’s Secret  

‘Brazil is a beautiful country, but it also holds the highest number of violent crimes against the trans community,’ she explained. ‘Being trans in Brazil, we don’t have the same opportunities. 

‘The door is closed for you just because you’re trans. It’s hard. I had to learn to fight for myself.’

Valentina said that while some progress has been made in recent years, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to gain worldwide acceptance for the trans community.   

‘I feel so blessed and grateful to have that support and love of my family. They are proud, proud of me today,’ she said. ‘I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to warrant that as best I can. 

‘I am honored and excited to be part of the iconic Swimsuit issue. They see the person and the woman who I am.’

Valentina’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit spread is one of many firsts for the boundary-breaking activist, who became the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017 and the first trans model to be hired by Victoria’s Secret in 2019.  

‘I feel strong, and I feel inspired to fight, not just for me, but for everyone that I represent,’ she said. ‘This is really a dream come true.’

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