Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio made history this past March as the first ever transgender woman to appear on the cover of any version of Vogue. It’s a fantastic step in the right direction for representation, and it’s pleasantly surprising that it happened in 2017, as the first black woman to appear on the cover of Vogue didn’t happen until Naomi Campbell in 1988. On Vogue’s official Instagram account, they stated in regard to the cover: “This month we are proud to celebrate transgender beauty and how models like Valentina Sampaio, who is posing for her first ever Vogue cover, are changing the face of fashion and de-constructing prejudice.”
Sampaio has faced countless obstacles as a transgender model, getting fired from her first job in 2014 because the company feared their customers “wouldn’t respond well” to the fact that she was trans. This didn’t stop her from eventually appearing on the Brazilian edition of Elle or walking at Sao Paolo Fashion week.
In the months that followed the March cover, Sampaio has used her platform to denounce the recent increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes being committed near her hometown. One particular attack, which ended in the brutal murder of Brazilian transgender woman Dandara dos Santos, was filmed and circulated online. Brazilian website Rede Trans recorded a horrifying rise in the murder rate of transgender people, which, in 2016, was more than double what it was in 2008. “This needs to stop being news…being transgender is a natural thing. There needs to be more education about accepting people for who they are in Brazil—which is such a huge and diverse country.” She has become an active advocate for education about gender identity in Brazilian curriculums.
Representation is important- Valentina’s presence on the cover of Vogue could open doors for more trans women in the fashion and entertainment industry but it will also provide encouragement for LGBT youth who don’t feel beautiful or worthy of a magazine spread. We are living in a more accepting world but we still have a long way to go, and hopefully Valentina will pave the way for more Transgender cover models.