Valentina Sampaio is Sports Illustrated’s first trans model

I know everyone’s feeling a little low right now, so here’s some good news amid the bleakness of our current situation. Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio has just made history by appearing in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, making her the first trans model to grace the pages of the annual issue.

ICYDK, Sports Illustrated publishes the special edition every year. Sampaio being on it is big because, as Slate pointed out in 2005, “in its 41 years on newsstands, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has been hailed as the arbiter of supermodel succession.”

According to Vogue, “the inclusive spirit of Sports Illustrated’s current model lineup can be credited to the publication’s longtime editor-in-chief, MJ Day. Day included [Ashley] Graham as the first plus-size model in 2016, Halima Aden as its first hijabi face in 2019, and had Banks return at the age of 46 to dazzle on the cover in 2019, all of which has heightened the relevance of the annual issue.” It also quotes Day saying, “Our goal in selecting who we feature is centered around identifying some of the most inspiring, interesting, and multidimensional women that we can find.” 

“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,” E! Online quotes her.

Talking to E! News, Sampaio said: “The first thought that came to my mind was this is not only an achievement for me as an individual but for the whole trans community. WE did this! WE are making a change in the world and I am so honored that SI thought of me to be in the upcoming SI Swim Issue.”

This isn’t the first time Sampaio has made waves: Vogue also pointed out that she was also the first trans woman “to make the cover of a Vogue edition” when she modeled for Paris Vogue’s March 2017 issue. She was also heralded as Victoria Secret’s first trans model when she signed onto the company last year.


Photo courtesy of Valentina Sampaio’s Instagram Account

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