In a company first, Victoria's Secret hires openly transgender model

Victoria’s Secret has been criticized for omitting transgender models from its shows and advertising.
Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio presents a creation by Patricia Viera during Sao Paulo Fashion Week in Brazil on Oct. 24, 2016.
Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio presents a creation by Patricia Viera during Sao Paulo Fashion Week in Brazil on Oct. 24, 2016.Nelson Almeida / AFP - Getty Images
By Gwen Aviles

Victoria’s Secret has hired its first openly transgender lingerie model.

Valentina Sampaio, 22, a Brazilian native, has been teasing the news for several days on her Instagram account. Late last week, she posted an image of herself clad in a bathrobe, writing “Backstage click” along with the Instagram handle for the Victoria’s Secret PINK brand, @vspink.

In a separate post shared on Saturday, Sampaio included the hashtag for the Victoria’s Secret PINK campaign and wrote, “Never stop dreaming.”

Sampaio’s agent, Erio Zanon, confirmed to CNN that his client will be working with the lingerie brand on a campaign, which will be released in August, to promote its PINK line.

Neither Zanon nor Victoria’s Secret immediately responded to NBC News’ request for comment.

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This is not the first time Sampaio has broken a barrier for transgender models. In 2017, she became the first trans model to appear on the cover of any edition of Vogue after posing for Vogue Paris. Translated from French, the cover read: “Transgender beauty: How they’re shaking up the world.”

“My cover is another small step — an important step to show we have the force to be Vogue cover girls," Sampaio said in a Buzzfeed News interview shortly after the issue was released. "Many times transgender women find the doors are already closed for them professionally, which only marginalizes us further — but everyone has something to show.”

Other models and transgender activists are cheering the news of Sampaio’s campaign.

“First transgender [model] to shoot with Vs! This makes me so happy!” wrote fellow Brazilian model Lais Ribeiro.

In response to one of Sampaio’s Instagram posts, where she hinted at her new gig, transgender actress Laverne Cox, best known for her role in “Orange Is the New Black,” wrote, “Wow finally!”

Victoria’s Secret has previously been criticized for omitting transgender models from its shows and advertising.

Ed Razek, chief marketing officer for L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, came under fire in November 2018 after stating in an interview with Vogue that he did not think the lingerie brand should include “transsexuals” in its annual runway show.

"Why not? Because the show is a fantasy," Razek said. "It's a 42-minute entertainment special. That's what it is."

Razek apologized shortly after, stating that his remarks “came across as insensitive.”

“To be clear, we would absolutely cast a transgender model for the show,” he wrote in a statement shared on the Victoria’s Secret Twitter account. “We’ve had transgender models come to castings and like many others they didn’t make it, but it was never about gender.”

In response to Razek’s comments, trans influencer and beauty brand owner Nikita Dragun created her own Victoria’s Secret-style ad and posted it on social media, where it went viral.

“Dear Victoria’s Secret, you said trans women can’t sell the ‘fantasy,’ so here I am as a trans woman selling the fantasy,” she wrote in a tweet along with the 35-second video of herself in lingerie, which garnered over 12 million views.

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