Valentina Sampaio Is Sports Illustrated Swimsuit's First Transgender Model

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By 1010 WINS

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio has made history, becoming the first transgender model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

Sampaio, 23, is one of eight "rookie" models in the upcoming issue, out July 21. She was photographed on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands by Josie Clough.

"Thank you SI for seeing and respecting me as I truly am," she writes in an essay for the magazine. For understanding that more than anything, I am human. Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL."

This isn't the first milestone for Sampaio: Last year she became the first openly transgender model hired by Victoria's Secret. She was also the first transgender model to grace the cover of Vogue Paris, Brasil, and Germany.

In her essay, Sampaio also addresses the bigotry and violence directed at the transgender community, particularly in her homeland.

"Brazil is a beautiful country, but it also hosts the highest number of violent crimes and murders against the trans community in the world—three times that of the U.S," she writes.

"Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds," she writes. "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."

She humbly adds, "I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can."

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