The upcoming 2020 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue will include the first transgender model in the annual issue's history. Valentina Sampaio, 23, will be included in the issue's pages when it hits stands on July 21. Sampaio celebrated her achievement on Instagram Friday, noting she was "excited and honored" to join the SI swimsuit family.
Sampaio is no stranger to making history. In March 2017, French Vogue made her the cover model, making Sampaio the first trans model to cover a Vogue edition. However, appearing in Sports Illustrated, the magazine that has made dozens of models household names, was even more special. "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 said in a statement on Instagram.
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Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue editor MJ Day told Vogue it was Sampaio's activism in the LGBTQ community that inspired her to invite Sampaio. "We are deeply moved that Valentina was willing to put her trust in us." Day explained. "We didn't think twice about wanting to amplify her voice and message and give her a platform to advocate from on behalf of her personal aspirations and the trans community."
Sampaio was born in Aquiraz, Brazil. In a 2017 New York Times profile, Sampaio said she "always felt like a girl" and her parents were "always supportive and are very proud" of her success in the modeling world. The model said she faced some "incidents" when she was starting her career and even considered quitting. She soldiered on, though, especially after seeing other trans models like Andreja Pejic find success.
Sampaio has also used her platform to highlight issues within the LGBTQ community in Brazil. "Brazil is a beautiful country, but it also hosts the highest number of violent crimes and murders against the trans community globally—three times that of the U.S.," she told Vogue. "Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples' hearts and minds."
In her interview with Sports Illustrated, Sampaio revealed her ambition for the future. In addition to acting, she hopes to speak before the United Nations. "I have acted before, but I would love to produce and act in a film that truly inspires people of all persuasions to see and feel what unifies them all as humans," she said. "I would also like to share this message by having the chance to deliver a speech at the U.N. one day."