Valentina Sampaio becomes 1st openly transgender ‘Sports Illustrated’ swimsuit model

Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImageBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Valentina Sampaio has become the first transgender model to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated’s highly coveted swimsuit issue.

“I was so surprised,” Sampaio told Good Morning America. “It means a lot, not just for myself but for all the LGBTQ+ community.”

Sampaio wears a gold bikini and natural makeup in the magazine.

“The team at SI has created yet another groundbreaking issue by bringing together a diverse set of multi-talented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way,” she wrote in an Instagram post sharing the news.

Being featured in the magazine’s iconic swimsuit issue is one of the most sought after modeling gigs in the world, and to see Sampaio on the cover is a joy to many of her fans. “Keep breaking grounds you powerful luminous Goddess,” one person commented on her post.

Growing up transgendered in a family of fishermen and one of seven children she struggled to find her place and faced a mountain of obstacles.

“It hasn’t been easy,” said the model and actress. “Early on I had a high-profile modeling job where once they realized I was trans on set I was suddenly fired.”

Support from Sampaio’s family and loved ones have played a key role in helping her propel into the pinnacle of her modeling career.

When asked about her message to others in the trans community, she said to “keep strong and believe in yourself.”

On Instagram, Sampaio also shared, “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.”

“We are all human, and I love to see people, friends and companies more open to fearlessly embracing the trans community with compassion and respect,” Sampaio said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time the magazine has broken barriers. Last year, model Halima Aden became the first woman to appear in a birkini and traditional hijab to be featured.

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