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Valentina Sampaio Is the 1st Transgender ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’ Model

Valentina Sampaio Is the 1st Transgender 'Sports Illustrated Swim' Model
Valentina Sampaio. Josie Clough/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

She’s making history once again! Valentina Sampaio is officially Sports Illustrated Swimsuit‘s first transgender model. This comes nearly a year after she made headlines as the face of Victoria’s Secret Pink.

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“I am excited and honored to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” Sampaio wrote in an Instagram post on Friday, July 10. “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.”

The 23-year-old beauty was shot by photographer Josie Clough in Scrub Island of the British Virgin Islands. She is featured in this year’s big swim issue alongside seven other rookies, including Lorena Duran, Kim Riekenberg, Brooks Nader, Marquita Pring, Anita Marshall, Hyunjoo Hwang and Josephine Skriver.

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In her Instagram caption on Friday, Sampaio shares a little bit of background on her difficult upbringing in a remote fishing town in 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 wrote. “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.”

The swim issue’s editor, MJ Day, said in a statement that Sampaio had been on the publication’s radar for a bit and when they finally met with her, she was even more of a perfect fit than they could’ve imagined.

“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,” Day said. “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.”

The issue is available on newsstands Tuesday, July 21.

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