The 23-year-old Brazilian has already checked off a lot of firsts for the trans community, as she has worked with Victoria’s Secret last year and when she covered Vogue Paris in 2017.
In a personal essay on SI Swimsuit’s website, the model thanked the publication “for seeing and respecting me as I truly am,” and “for understanding that more than anything, I am human.”
Sampaio said to Vogue that she hopes her Sports Illustrated feature sheds a light on the challenges members of the LGBTQIA people face in her home country.
“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 the magazine. “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. I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can.”
Her activism played a role in convincing Sports Illustrated editor MJ Day to feature Sampaio in this year’s lineup. “We are deeply moved that Valentina was willing to put her trust in us,” said Day, to Vogue.
“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.”
The 2020 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue hits newsstands on July 21.