Sports Illustrated’s first transgender swimsuit model will be on the cover later this month

Sports Illustrated’s latest Swimsuit Issue features the publication’s first-ever transgender swimsuit model, Valentina Sampaio.

The 23-year-old Brazilian model appears in two stunning bikini photos in the history-making Swimsuit Issue. She also published a personal essay for the magazine, explaining that she’s “excited and honored” to be a part of this moment.

“The team at [Sports Illustrated] has created yet another groundbreaking issue by bringing together a diverse set of multitalented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way,” Sampaio wrote. “Thank you [Sports Illustrated] for seeing and respecting me as I truly am. For understanding that more than anything, I am human.”

Sports Illustrated has shared previews of Sampaio’s photos on Twitter. Take a look for yourself below.

Sampaio shared that she was “born trans in a remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil.” She wrote that the country has the highest rate of anti-trans violence in the world — three times higher than in the United States.

Fortunately, Sampaio always had supportive parents and peers, she said in a 2017 interview with the New York Times. She was discovered by a makeup artist in her teenage years and signed by a modeling agency shortly after.

Though she initially faced some prejudice from early clients, Sampaio never gave up on her career. She’s been working steadily ever since, appearing on runways and on magazine covers like French Vogue.

In her Sports Illustrated “Meet the Rookies” page, Sampaio expressed a desire to advocate for anyone else who has faced prejudice. She says if she could give any advice to her 14-year-old self now, she’d tell herself to “not feel ‘wrong’ for being who I was born as. To not feel shame or fear for being trans.”

Sports Illustrated has released a Swimsuit Issue every year since 1964, featuring famous models and celebrities like Elle Macpherson, Tyra Banks and Beyoncé. In over five decades, Sampaio is the first trans model to appear in the issue’s pages. Congratulations, Valentina Sampaio!

Fashion & Style, Good News, News, Sports

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