“I know who I am. I know I am Valentina. I have learned to fight for myself, and I have to find this strength to be who I am. I have faced so many challenges in my life that I had to be strong,” says transgender model Valentina Sampaio.
Growing up in Brazil, Valentina Sampaio found her true self at age eight when she identified as transgender. She says that living your life the way society thinks you should live when you are not truly yourself is absolutely suffocating.
Brooke Shields’ beauty inspired Valentina in the film Blue Lagoon as a child. Shields was her first icon. Valentina grew up by the beach so she could identify with the film’s scenery, and people often told her she looked like Shields. According to her agent, Jennifer, Valentina still has some qualities, such as a calm demeanor and being “one of a kind.” Valentia always responds by saying that everyone is “one of a kind,” Being one of a kind makes the world interesting and a great thing.
Although Shields may have been the supermodel and actress that Valentina admired, her mother was her true hero. For Valentina, her mom has always represented determination and strength. She says she inherited her determination from her mother and a few physical traits such as her mouth and curly hair. Her mother always supported her, which is extremely important for someone who needs to become their true self. Valentina recognizes how lucky she is to have a parent who has always supported her choices because not everyone has that. Even as an adult, Valentina still talks with her mother almost every day and is always sure to express her love and gratitude.
Prior to becoming a professional model in 2016, when she saw Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Valentina was an actress and appeared in a Brazilian film titled Berenice. However, the moment she saw Graham on the cover of such an iconic magazine, she says it was the moment she was inspired to be her true self.
In 2020, Valentina became the first transgender model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In discussing Sports Illustrated, Valentina said they were very accepting of her and were able to understand who she truly is. She said Sports Illustrated is “one of the most iconic magazines and truly embraces and celebrates diversity.” One year prior to gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, she appeared as the first transgender model in Vogue Paris, Vogue Germany, and Vogue Brazil. She is truly a trailblazer for transgender models all across the world.
Although Valentina is a successful model, she recognizes that appearance isn’t everything. She says, “I always look, live, and dream beyond appearance.” Even though she recognizes herself as a beautiful woman, some days, Valentina struggles when she looks in the mirror. Some days she doesn’t feel beautiful. This is one reason she believes beauty is in the soul, and everyone has this inner beauty. She says it is important for everyone to feel beautiful in their way, and no one should ever be made to feel like they are not beautiful.
Valentina believes she can use her platform to share her victories and values with others to make the world a kinder place for those struggling to be their true selves. Along with modeling, Valentina says fashion is another great platform in which diversity can and should be celebrated. Right now, there is more diversity in fashion and modeling than ever before. Although the overwhelming majority of press, feedback, and comments are positive, Valentina has received some messages that are not as kind, but she chooses to focus on the good. She is happy to know that most of the world sees her presence as a positive move forward and that they are supporting her and the entire trans community.
She works tirelessly to push boundaries and open doors for herself and everyone who faces discrimination because she believes anything is possible for anyone. Everyone is human, and society shouldn’t make them feel any different.
Valentina’s hope for the future is that the world is filled with more compassion, love, and kindness so that individuals can feel free to be their true selves because they are too suppressed right now. Without unity and kindness, people cannot be themselves without judgment. She says, “Without love, we are nothing.” She says everyone should be able to live the life they want, as who they truly are.
When discussing the struggles of young people becoming their true selves, Valentina says, “I know it’s hard, but you have to be strong. You have to be the first to respect yourself.” Her advice for staying strong is to practice self-care. She says you have to look deep inside yourself to find strength because it is there. You just need to find it. Valentina has had struggles in her life, but this inner strength is what gets her through.
Valentine hopes to inspire everyone to embrace their true identity. She says, “Always be your true self fearlessly.”