In its 56 years, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has represented current standards of beauty, which have evolved throughout the decades. From Tyra Banks being the first Black model to grace its cover in 1997 to Ashley Graham being the first full-figured model to do the same nearly two decades later to Halima Aden being the first featured model to wear a hijab in 2019, the magazine has broken barriers in the modeling industry, catapulting the careers of these diverse faces.
For its upcoming issue, Sports Illustrated has enacted another first. Valentina Sampaio has been named a 2020 rookie and is the first transgender model to appear in the glossy’s pages. Indeed, it is another milestone for the 23-year-old Brazilian, who garnered the same distinction when she signed up to be the face of a Victoria’s Secret campaign last year.
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“I was filled with so many emotions of happiness when I heard the news,” Sampaio told People. “The feeling was surreal. Being in SI Swim has always been on my bucket list of things to achieve in my career. It’s a dream come true on so many levels. SI has been a deeply meaningful achievement. To come from a space of fear and marginalization, to now being included in one of the most iconic magazines that truly embraces and celebrates diversity—it is life changing.”
Lensed by Josie Clough on Scrub Island, the editorial spread is one of many in an issue that celebrates diversity. Hyunjoo Hwang, Marquita Pring, Anita Marshall, Lorena Duran, Kim Riekenberg, Brooks Nader, Jospehine Skriver were also named 2020 rookies and appear in the magazine. But it is Sampaio who is making headlines—and deservedly so.
“Every woman that represents a ‘first’ does so with the understanding that with the accolades and support that accompanies that title, scrutiny and negativity also follows,” said MJ Day, the publication’s editor. “The strength and resilience of her spirit and selflessness that [Sampaio] possesses must not go unrecognized. I am so proud that she chose to bring her message of hope and acceptance to us here at SI Swimsuit.”
Sampaio has been an advocate for the LGBTQ+ people, especially the transgender community, and by garnering this title and the visibility that comes with it, she hopes that it will lead to a greater sense of inclusivity in the zeitgeist.
“As a community, each personal success is a step forward for all,” she said. “I am very grateful to God and all whom have helped me along my journey so far. I honor the challenges of those who have paved the way for me directly or indirectly. They have made where I am today possible. I am committed to keep growing and push boundaries, so that I can in some way, pave the path for others. We are here, we always have been here and we always will be.”
The 2020 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue will be on stands July 21. For more information, visit swimsuit.si.com.
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