Sports Illustrated Debuts First-Ever Transgender Model On Cover Of Swimsuit Edition


It wasn’t that long ago that our society celebrated important achievements made by women who were strong, moral leaders or revolutionary risk-takers. Harriet Tubman. Queen Victoria. Susan B. Anthony. Margaret Thatcher. Sandra Day O’Conner.

Women who broke barriers and stood up for what was right, proving that women are not intellectually inferior to men, nor less concerned about pursuing justice and truth.

Now, men are celebrated for taking even the most dubiously honorable places once taken by women, like gracing the cover of the notorious swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated magazine, which has long been objectifying the women whose modeling careers they tend kickstart with their casting choices.

In a glowing profile of Valentina Sampaio, the Brazillian-born, biologically male pick for this year’s scantily-clad spread, Vogue Magazine gushes:

Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue is a modeling institution. In the 56 years since its inception, the special edition has elevated stars like Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, and Ashley Graham to household-name status, and each year it ushers in a new set of rookies from around the globe. The parameters for success have historically been narrow, but the concept has evolved to reflect the times. The year 2020 brings the first trans woman to grace SI’s pages, the Brazilian-born model Valentina Sampaio. She’s used to breaking boundaries—Sampaio was already the first trans model to make the cover of a Vogue edition—but discovering she had made the cut was special. “The team at SI has created yet another groundbreaking issue by bringing together a diverse set of multitalented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way,” she shared with Vogue. “I am excited and honored to be part [of this].”

They explain that Sports Illustrated editor in chief, MJ Day, is also used to breaking barriers with her casting choices.

Day included Graham as the first plus-size model in 2016; Halima Aden as its first hijabi face in 2019; and had Banks return at the age of 46 to dazzle on the cover in 2019, all of which has heightened the relevance of the annual issue. For Day, the casting process is more about character than how someone looks in a bikini.

“Our goal in selecting who we feature is centered around identifying some of the most inspiring, interesting, and multidimensional women that we can find,” she says.

Day had been aware of Sampaio due to her LGBTQIA activism.

“We are deeply moved that Valentina was willing to put her trust in us,” says Day. “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.”

“[This] is what we can do as a brand, especially during these uncertain times, support her and celebrate her.”

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