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The only thing better than getting featured in Sports Illustrated is to make history while doing so.

Enter Valentina Sampaio, the first transgender model to appear in the magazine’s much-lauded Swimsuit Edition. Sampaio was named a 2020 rookie for the upcoming issue that hits stands on July 21.

The 23-year-old took to Instagram to react to the barrier-breaking news and thank Sports Illustrated for its inclusiveness.

“I am excited and honored to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” she wrote on Instagram. “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.”

Born in Brazil, Sampaio knew that this moment is bigger than her and decided to shed light on the wave of violence against trans women in her native country. She also noted that in 2019 alone, 129 transgender people were murdered in Brazil.

“I was born trans in a remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil,” she shared. “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.”

It’s also important to remember that Sampaio’s been breaking barriers for trans models for the past few now. Not only did she become the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris in 2017, but last year she was also the first openly transgender model to be hired by Victoria’s Secret.

To celebrate the history-making feat, we rounded up some of our favorite shots from her Instagram.


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