Valentina Sampaio Makes History as First Trans 'Sports Illustrated' Model

Valentina Sampaio Makes History as First Trans 'Sports Illustrated' Model

by Riley Runnells

Valentina Sampaio is making history, yet again.

Last summer, the 23-year-old became the first transgender model hired by lingerie mega-brand Victoria's Secret, and now, she's set to be featured in the 2020 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, making her the first transgender model to appear in the famous edition of the magazine.

Sampaio, in a statement to E! News, said she was blown away when she heard the news: modeling for SI Swimsuit has always been a dream of hers.

"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," Sampaio told E! News. "WE did this! WE are making a change in the world and I am honored that SI thought of me to be in the upcoming SI Swim Issue."

MJ Day, editor of SI Swimsuit, said the goal when selecting who to feature is to find the most multi-dimensional, inspiring women. Valentina was almost a no-brainer.

"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 LGBTQ+ community and just simply embodies the well-rounded woman we are proud to have represent SI Swimsuit across our platforms," Day said.

Day goes further to say he feels moved that Sampaio is willing to put her trust in the editors of the issue to amplify her voice and elevate her message regarding the Trans community.

"That is what we can do as a brand, especially during these uncertain times — support her and celebrate her," Day said.

Sampaio is one of eight new models included in this year's issue, working with Lorena Duran, Hyunjoo Hwang, Anita Marshall, Brooks Nader, Marquita Pring, Kim Riekenberg and Josephine Skriver.

Sampaio's achievement has been a long time coming. Her modeling career has always been an uphill battle; She's been fired and discriminated against for her identity. With this new opportunity, Sampaio hopes to inspire transgender youth, and to help them see they are all physically unique, but united in the desire to be accepted and loved.

"We are all human and we all want to be accepted and loved," Sampaio said. "I realize I have been very fortunate and I am forever grateful. I also think it is extremely important to share positive milestones and victories. I advocate for people who face prejudice and are not given the basic level of human rights to exist with minimal dignity. If anything I say or do can plant a seed of love, that is my goal and life's work."

The 2020 SI Swimsuit Issue will hit stands and with exclusive content on July 21. Until then, check out Sampaio's profile on the SI Swimsuit website.

Photo via Getty/ Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images