“I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can…what unites us as humans is that we all share the common desire to be accepted and loved for who we are.” These are words from Valentina Sampaio’s open letter in Sports Illustrated magazine.
At the young age of 20, Valentina Sampaio reached her first historic milestone as the first trans woman to ever grace the cover of Vogue Paris. In 2019, she became the first openly trans woman to model for Victoria’s Secret. Now in 2020, the 23-year-old Brazilian bombshell, became one of 8 women chosen by Sports Illustrated for this year’s swimsuit issue. The New York Times reported that MJ Day, the editor of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, made a statement saying that Valentina had been on her radar for some time and that she had noticed her passion for activism, calling the Sports Illustrated rookie a “true pioneer for the LGBT+ community.”
Sports Illustrated makes no note or even mentions the fact that Sampaio is a trans woman. It’s not until Sampaio is asked in the Q&A on SI’s site what advice would she give to her 14-year-old self that she responded: “To be strong and mature. To understand that there are situations that will be especially challenging because I don’t yet have the life experience to handle them with ease. To not feel ‘wrong’ for being who I was born as. To not feel shame or fear for being trans.”
Valentina ended her open letter in the magazine with appreciation to SI and a big thanks for the opportunity to be featured this season, saying: “Thank you, SI, for seeing and respecting me as I truly am. For understanding that more than anything, I am human. Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL.”