Valentina Sampaio Makes History as First Trans Model in SI Swimsuit Issue

by Eddie Roche

Pride month ended in June, but Sports Illustrated (of all places) is giving the LGBTQ community some bonus good news with word that trans model, Valentina Sampaio, will appear in their upcoming swimsuit issue. Sampaio joins rookies Lorena Duran, Kim Riekenberg, Brooks Nader, Marquita Pring, Anita Marshall, Hyunjoo Hwang, and Jospehine Skriver in the magazine, which is out on July 21st.

“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, ” Sampaio says. “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.”

She added: “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. I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can.”

Valentina Sampaio (Josie Clough)

Sampaio was photographed in Scrub Island, BVI by photographer Josie Clough.

Sports Illustrated has made positive strides in recent years in casting diverse women for the annual issue. Ashley Graham’s first appearance also included a cover in 2016 and she returned for several years after. Last year, Halmia Aden was the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab and burkini in their pages.

“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,” MJ Day, editor of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, says. “That is what we can do as a brand, especially during these uncertain times- support her and celebrate her.”

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