This Just In: Valentina Sampaio Is The First Openly Transgender Model To Work With Victoria's Secret

For the first time ever, and in a step that can only be termed as long overdue, Victoria's Secret has reportedly cast Brazilian model and actress Valentina Sampaio for a photoshoot, making her the first openly transgender model to ever work with the brand. Though VS itself is yet to make a formal announcement, the model took to Instagram to share a 'behind the scenes' picture. 

"Never stop dreaming", she wrote in another brief video shared on the platform. The move comes after last year's debacle when Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek's ignorant comments in an interview to Vogue caused public outrage. "Shouldn’t you have transsexuals (sic) in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader." Later, a public outcry lead to an apology being issued via Twitter. 

In recent times, Victoria's Secret has come under fire more than once, often for presenting an out-dated idea of female beauty that objectifies women as mere objects of desire. The introduction of all-inclusive labels such as Rihanna's SAVAGE X FENTY and numerous others like ThirdLove, Knix, and Aerie over the years has only highlighted the vividly exclusionary vision of the brand, one that refuses to change when the world around it is.  

In response to the many times it has faced criticism for not being inclusive enough, from contemporaries and masses alike, Victoria's Secret's response has been lukewarm. While the brand has included models of colour, an overarching theme of inclusivity has been kept at bay. In fact, in response to Ed Razek's comments last year, contemporary brand Third Love had famously published an open letter on the front page of The New York Times

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New York Times Sunday, full page letter from @heidi to @victoriassecret - Dear Victoria’s Secret, I was appalled when I saw the demeaning comments about women your Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, made to Vogue last week. As hard as it is to believe, he said the following: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” “It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy.” I’ve read and re-read the interview at least 20 times, and each time I read it I’m even angrier. How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements? You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. But at ThirdLove, we think beyond, as you said, a “42-minute entertainment special.” Your show may be a “fantasy” but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country. Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles? It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend. I founded ThirdLove five years ago because it was time to create a better option. ThirdLove is the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret. We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm. Let’s listen to women. Let’s respect their intelligence. Let’s exceed their expectations. Let women define themselves. As you said Ed, “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love.” We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: we may not have been a woman’s first love but we will be her last. To all women everywhere, we see you, and we hear you. Your reality is enough. To each, her own. -Heidi @heidi

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It goes without saying, however, that Sampaio's casting is a significant step towards attaining a much larger degree of representation in the fashion industry at large. To give credit where it's due, several brands have been doing their part in trying to bring about the much-needed inclusivity that fashion needs. In May this year, Calvin Klein introduced Indya Moore, a transgender person, as the face of their Pride capsule collection. Moore, who identifies as a non-binary person, has also starred in a campaign for Louis Vuitton.

In 2018, the industry has taken vital steps to embrace inclusivity, be it the casting of Anok Yai for Prada, who became the first Egyptian-American model to open a show for the house in 20 years, second only to Naomi Campbell or the dynamic 65-year-old Isabella Rossellini appearing in Lancôme adverts, years after she was let go for being 'too old'.

Of late, brands have begun to sit up and take notice, making representation and inclusivity a key issue. Case in point: Tommy Hilfiger's Tommy Adaptive which caters to specially-abled people; Asos's vibrant jumpsuit made in collaboration with BBC reporter Chloe Ball-Hopkins, keeping wheelchair users in mind; Old Navy and Nike's introduction of plus-sized mannequins; Fenty Beauty's game-changing make-up ranges that cater to a number of skin tones; Dior's showcase of dreadlocks sported by Indira Scott on the runway, and much more. 

And while numerous fashion brands and professionals are crossing the self-made barriers to become an all-inclusive industry, there still remains a long way to go. Inclusivity and fair, equal representation are more than just buzzwords, and it's time that we, as an industry, embraced that fact. 

Featured Image: Valentina Sampaio on Instagram

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