July 11 (UPI) — On Friday Valentina Sampaio became the first transgender woman to be featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
The 23-year-old Brazilian model became the first openly transgender model for Victoria’s Secret and in 2017 was featured on the cover of French Vogue, becoming the first transgender woman featured on the cover of a Vogue edition.
In a personal essay on the magazine’s website, Sampaio, who grew up in a fishing village in northern Brazil, wrote that she was grateful for the opportunity “my intention is to honor that as best I can.”
“Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds,” Sampaio wrote. “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.”
Sports Illustrated launched in 1954 and started publishing an annual swimsuit edition in 1964.
The swimsuit issue has had several breakthrough breakthrough moments in recent years: last year it featured a Somali-American model in a hijab and burkini, and in 2016 the magazine put a size 16 model on the cover for the first time.
“Our goal in selecting who we feature is centered around identifying some of the most inspiring, interesting, and multidimensional women that we can find,” said Sports Illustrated editor MJ Day. “We are deeply moved that Valentina was willing to put her trust in us. 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.”