Model Valentina Sampaio says she was ‘fired and humiliated’ on a modeling job for being trans

·2 min read

Valentina Sampaio says that being fired from set for being a trans woman led her to a realization about her place in the modeling industry.

Sampaio, a Brazilian actress and model who was the first trans woman to appear in the Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue as well as on the cover of French Vogue, spoke to Amanda de Cadenet on Victoria’s Secret podcast VS Voices about the “ignorance” she faced in the early days of her career. Sampaio, who is now a member of the VS Collective alongside stars like Priyanka Chopra, Megan Rapinoe, Naomi Osaka, Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid, explained to de Cadenet that it was initially “very challenging” to get work as a model.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 16: Valentina Sampaio attends the
Valentina Sampaio spoke on the VS Voices podcast about being fired from a modeling set for being a trans woman. (Photo: Michael Ostuni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

“Even when people wanted to work with me, they would be scared of hiring a trans woman,” she explained. “I faced much ignorance and fear.”

She shared that she was fired from one job after the brand she was working for learned she was transgender. However, the experience ultimately led to a major revelation about her place in the industry.

“Being fired and humiliated on set that day was traumatizing, but it was also what led the fire within me to overcome my personal heartache,” Sampaio recalled. “It made me see beyond myself. It allowed me to understand that I need to shed light and create [opportunities], not just for myself, but for the humanization and benefit of all trans people whenever possible. Shortly after that experience, I was cast in a film that was shot in Rio. That creative opportunity gave me the courage to open myself up to modeling and move to San Paolo. Within a few months of that movie, I was asked to model for the cover of [French Vogue], and my career took off.”

Sampaio has previously used her platform to speak out for trans rights. In an interview with HollywoodLife in October 2021, the up-and-coming fashion star said of the rise in anti-trans legislation, “Trans youth need love and support, but instead are being targeted by measures that will harm them. We should be uniting around ways to uplift trans youth today and always, not making life harder for them. I hope that trans youth see women like me at photo shoots and on runways and recognize the beauty of being trans. I want them to watch our film and see trans joy during this time when so many unnecessary and cruel laws are being passed.”