Models getting their own magazine cover these days is rare (Karlie Kloss might be pretty but the Kardashians sell copies), but Valentina Sampaio fronts ELLE Brazil’s November issue. So what makes this woman whose last name isn’t Hadid or Jenner worthy of such an honor? While Sampaio’s beauty is remarkable, the cover is important for another reason: it marks another small step for diversity in the fashion industry because Sampaio is a transgender woman. The 19-year-old’s latest shoot is just the latest contribution to the fashion industry’s efforts to be more gender inclusive.
Sampaio, who wears a blue bathing suit and a Burberry coat in the shot, made waves when she came out as a trans woman on International Women’s Day through a video for L’Oreal Paris for which she is an ambassador. “Beauty is something that transcends the body,” she said in the clip. “It comes from the soul.” She goes 2016’s Women’s Day was officially her first, Sampaio’s cover is not without precedent.
Lea T, a Brazilian-born trans model, covered ELLE Brazil in 2011 and went on to become the first openly transgender person to host an Olympic Games ceremony. She passed the proverbial torch to Sampaio in an Instagram post of the cover, sharing, “Look at the world becoming more beautiful every day.”
And she’s right. In July, Hari Nef, who had previously made history when she became the first trans woman to be signed by the modeling agency IMG, became the first transgender model to be tapped to front ELLE UK. The actress was named an “Icon of Change” and given a collectors’s cover alongside big name stars including Zayn Malik, Kristen Stewart, and Amandla Stenberg. Sampaio joins a legion of modern day working transgender models such as Andreja Pejic, the first trans person to land a Vogue feature, Ashley Laith, a trans male featured on Whoopi Goldberg’s reality television series Strut about a transgender modeling agency, and more.
Even Sao Paulo Fashion Week at large is seeing a focus on diversity. Prior to Sampaio’s cover announcement, designer Ronaldo Fraga presented his collection exclusively on trans models casting a total of 28 transgender women.
Now, who’s going to help Laverne score her first Vogue cover?