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Valentina Sampaio Is Sports Illustrated's First Trans Model

"I feel strong, and I feel inspired to fight, not just for me but for everyone that I represent."

In an effort to have more representation on the pages of its annual Swimsuit Issue, Sports Illustrated revealed its first-ever trans model Valentina Sampaio on Friday.

Following the announcement, the Brazilian-born 23-year-old took to Instagram to share the news, as well as the challenges that the trans community continues to face, especially in her native country:

"I am excited and honored to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. 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.
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.
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."

Sampaio has pushed for more inclusivity towards trans models in the fashion industry before. In 2019, she was the first openly trans model to work with Victoria's Secret. She was also the first to grace the cover of Vogue. (French Vogue's March 2017 issue, to be exact.)

"I feel strong, and I feel inspired to fight, not just for me but for everyone that I represent," said Sampaio in a video interview with Sports Illustrated. See more of her history-making Swimsuit Issue photoshoot, below.