Valentina Sampaio, photographed by Josie Clough

Sports Illustrated welcomed Valentina Sampaio as their first transgender swimsuit model. Ever since they were established 56 years ago, they’ve been known to have exceptionally high standards and a small margin of success for aspiring models, but they’ve also changed with the times and with society’s standard of beauty. The inclusion of a transwoman can be seen as a huge success for the LGBT+ community as a whole.

Sampaio didn’t always have this much fame and success. She was actually fired from her first modeling company mere minutes before her shoot was supposed to begin because her client decided she didn’t suit the “family friendly” image they wanted to portray. She felt embarrassed and ashamed at the time and even wondered if there was a place for her in the modeling industry.

Thankfully for Sampaio, her luck was soon to turn around. Vogue recruited her through her Instagram account and featured her as the first transgender model on their cover of their March 2017 issue. Now, with this opportunity from Sports Illustrated, her image will be an inspiration to many.

Sampaio was born in a fishing village in Northern Brazil, but she explained on her interview page on Sports Illustrated that she’s of a mixed descent. She has Dutch, African, and Indigenous Amazonian blood. She came from a family of seven children, and, alongside modeling, she also has a great passion for acting.

What unites us all as humans is that we all share the common desire to be accepted and loved for who we are.

Valentina Sampaio

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