At just 24 years old, Valentina Sampaio has already cemented herself as a top voice and face of the transgender community. After being rejected by a clothing company for their campaign in 2014 for being transgender, the Brazilian model didn't give up on her dreams. Three years later, she would become the first transgender model to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris as the face of the publication’s March 2017 issue.
That groundbreaking moment was followed by many others, including appearances on the covers of Vogue Brasil and Vogue Germany. Sampaio became the first transgender model for Victoria's Secret in 2019 and made her SI Swimsuit debut in 2020. SI Swimsuit spoke to Sampaio to kick off Pride Month--the worldwide celebration that takes place every June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots--to hear her feelings on breaking barriers and what she hopes to change in the fashion industry.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
"It is much more than a day to celebrate love; it is a date to be proud of being able to be who you are without fear or embarrassment. It is a time to remember that we are all equal and have equal rights, equal access and respect, an important mobilization to raise awareness among the world population about the importance of inclusion, equality and the fight against LGBT phobia."
You've broken many barriers as the first openly transgender model for major brands and publications. How does it feel to be a groundbreaking model?
"It filled my heart with joy and hope because it was a step toward more inclusivity. I believe the grace and support of God have always guided me since I was a child. That faith keeps me going every day. Even today, sometimes it feels like a daydream."
What's still on your bucket list career-wise?
"I am committed to grow and continue to push boundaries for both myself and anyone who faces discrimination."
What changes do you hope to see more of in the fashion industry?
"I believe there is enough room in the world for all of us to exist in our own unique way -- as long as there is respect and humanity. I would love to see people, brands and companies be more open to fearlessly embracing the trans community with compassion and respect."
What message would you want other young transgender people to know?
"I always look, live and dream beyond apparent challenges. Always be your true self and fearless. You're all special and unique."