Valentina Sampaio has made a splash in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.
The 23-year-old Brazilian model is the first transgender woman to be featured in the magazine. Sampaio was dubbed a 2020 Rookie in the issue, which will be released July 21.
SI Swim and Sampaio debuted the photo spread, shot by Josie Clough on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands, on Instagram Friday.
“I was filled with so many emotions of happiness when I heard the news. The feeling was surreal,” Sampaio told People. “Being in SI Swim has always been on my bucket list of things to achieve in my career. It’s a dream come true on so many levels. SI has been a deeply meaningful achievement.
“To come from a space of fear and marginalization, to now being included in one of the most iconic magazines that truly embraces and celebrates diversity — it is life changing.”
The annual issue from Sports Illustrated is one of the modeling industry’s most coveted showcases. The world’s most high-profile supermodels, including Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum, and Cindy Crawford, have appeared in its pages throughout the years. It is credited with popularizing the bikini.
To People, Sampaio also recognized the importance of her breakthrough achievement to the greater LGBTQ+ movement.
“As a community, each personal success is a step forward for all. I am very grateful to God and all whom have helped me along my journey so far,” she said. “I honor the challenges of those who have paved the way for me directly or indirectly. They have made where I am today possible. I am committed to keep growing and push boundaries, so that I can in some way, pave the path for others. We are here, we always have been here, and we always will be.”
Social media filled with praise for Sampaio — as well as the news of the long-awaited milestone. “Wow finally!” Laverne Cox exclaimed in the comments on Sampaio’s Instagram post.
“I have had the honor of photographing you and your beauty blew me away,” said Helena Christensen, Danish photographer and supermodel. “But even more so did your kindness, and tender, lovely spirit.”
“Sports Illustrated Swimsuit joins institutions from the Girl Scouts of the USA to Miss Universe in recognizing the simple fact that trans women are women,” said Anthony Ramos, GLAAD’s head of talent, in a statement. “Talented women like Valentina Sampaio deserve to be spotlighted and given equal opportunities. Her work in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit is a significant step forward as the modeling industry continues its evolution on traditional standards of inclusion.”
Last year, Sampaio broke ground as the first trans model to partner with Victoria’s Secret, appearing in a campaign for the lingerie brand’s PINK line. Her goal is to become the first trans woman to grace the cover of Vogue.
Watch Sampaio discuss the historic moment with GLAAD below.