For Valentina Sampaio, smashing boundaries is becoming second nature.
The 23-year-old Brazilian native appears in a stunning beachside pictorial in Sports Illustrated’s 2020 Swimsuit Issue, becoming the first openly transgender model to appear in the magazine.
Sampaio, who became the first trans woman to model for Victoria’s Secret last year, opened up about her latest milestone on Instagram Friday. She said she was “excited and honored” to appear in the “groundbreaking” new issue of the magazine, on newsstands July 21.
In an essay that appears in Sports Illustrated alongside the photo spread, Sampaio explained how her personal experience as a trans woman had impacted her outlook on her modeling career.
“Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds,” she said. “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,” she added, “and my intention is to honor that as best I can.”
Speaking to “Good Morning America” Friday, Sampaio said she hoped to encourage others through her triumphs, too.
“It’s hard, but you have to [stay] strong,” she said. “We all are human. I love to see people, brands and companies more open to fearlessly embracing the trans community with compassion and respect.”
The news drew praise from a number of high-profile outlets, including Vogue and Vanity Fair. Meanwhile, GLAAD’s Anthony Ramos applauded the magazine for “recognizing the simple fact that trans women are women.”
“Talented women like Valentina Sampaio deserve to be spotlighted and given equal opportunities,” Ramos, who is the LGBTQ advocacy group’s head of talent, told HuffPost in an email. “Her work in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is a significant step forward as the modeling industry continues its evolution on traditional standards of inclusion.”