Transgender model Valentina Sampaio says she's 'proud' to be hired by Victoria's Secret despite brand's transphobic history

Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio, 22, spoke with MEAWW about becoming the first transwoman to be hired by Victoria's Secret


                            Transgender model Valentina Sampaio says she's 'proud' to be hired by Victoria's Secret despite brand's transphobic history

After becoming the first transgender model to grace the cover of Vogue magazine in 2017, Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio, 22, will now be the first transwoman to be hired by Victoria's Secret—a brand which made headlines nearly a year ago for making transphobic remarks. 

Sampaio announced the news on her Instagram page on Thursday, August 1, posting behind-the-scenes snaps of her photoshoot for Victoria Secret's Pink lingerie line. "Backstage click," she captioned one photo, while sharing another video from the same shoot with a caption: "Never stop dreaming [people]". She included the hashtag "diversity" in both the posts. 

The model told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) that her post set off a "chain reaction" among her followers who could not stop showering praises on her. "Obviously it made me super happy and stoked to receive such a massive and warm response from so many people it filled my heart because [this] is a step toward more inclusivity," she said.

After Vogue Paris cover, Sampaio, the daughter of a teacher and a fisherman, considered the stint as "another big achievement" in career, adding that "being appointed the first transgender model for the brand is a hugely important moment not only for myself but my community and beyond. I hope this can be a huge step toward more inclusivity and representation for everybody."

Valentina Sampaio posts behind-the-scenes picture from her Victoria's Secret photo shoot. (Instagram)

According to Daily Mail, Ed Razek, the Chief Marketing Officer of L-Brands, the parent company of Victoria's Secret, said in an interview with Vogue in November 2018 that trans and plus-size models were considered inappropriate for Victoria's Secret fashion show.

"If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus-size model in the show, we have," Razek told the magazine. "I don't think we can be all things to all customers. It's a specialty business. It isn't a department store... We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world. I don't think we should [have trans models]. The [fashion] show is fantasy. It's a 42-minute entertainment special."

Following a barrage of backlash from celebrities and competitors alike, Razek was forced to apologize or his discriminating comments just days after they were published. 

When asked if Sampaio had knowledge of the transphobic comments made by L-Brands in the past, she said, “Of course I'm aware but I welcome the brand’s evolution towards inclusivity, as well as invite other brands within the fashion industry to evolve together. I am excited to be a part of this process, and am proud to be a part of the VS (Victoria’s Secret) family.”

In an interview with Brazil's Diario do Nordeste newspaper, she said she was never a victim of anti-trans discrimination.

“At age eight, my mother took me to a psychologist. At that time, I already loved being around girls. I felt like one of them, and I had a collection of dolls,' Sampaio said. “The psychologist understood at the time that I was transgender. Twelve years old, I started to call myself Valentina, a name I heard once and I thought was beautiful.”

Nevertheless, she told MEAWW that she was proud to use her voice and her visibility to "try to change the status quo and for sure this job gave me this opportunity.”

Lastly, although an increasing number of brands were hiring models from the LGBT community, Sampaio said that “there is a lot more work to do in our industry, culture, and society. I truly hope to be able to work with more brands that understand the importance of this.”

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