Victoria's Secret hires first transgender model

NEW YORK • Victoria's Secret is casting an openly transgender woman, Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio, for the first time for a catalogue photo shoot.

Her agent Erio Zanon said on Monday that Sampaio, 22, had been hired for catalogue work for VS Pink, the company's athletic line.

He said Sampaio "believes that this is a great opportunity to break barriers" in the fashion business "and to contribute to a bigger representation for everybody".

Sampaio wrote on Instagram: "Never stop dreaming."

For a brand that has struggled with criticism that it is anachronistic and out of touch, Sampaio's selection was seen by some as a step whose time was past due.

"Wow finally" Laverne Cox, who has spoken publicly about her own breakthroughs as a transgender actress, wrote on Sampaio's Instagram post.

It was only last year that Mr Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of the lingerie company's parent organisation, L Brands, expressed a lack of interest in casting transgender models.

Brazilian Valentina Sampaio (above) modelling for Amir Slama during Sao Paulo Fashion Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2017. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

He later apologised for the remark, which had come in an interview with Vogue.

Sampaio's hiring comes as transgender people are becoming more visible in advertising, including in campaigns by Calvin Klein, Gap and H&M.

Playboy's first transgender Playmate appeared in 2017 and Geena Rocero, a transgender woman, was featured in the magazine this summer.

Victoria's Secret is still a leading lingerie brand in the United States, but its share of the market has fallen as it tries to keep up with the times.

Its fashion shows featuring skinny models, thongs and push-up bras have often been criticised as sexist and out of touch, and new lingerie start-ups, including Third Love and Savage X Fenty, are rising as competitors that embrace inclusivity.

"If you can't modernise, if you can't escape your roots from where you started, you are going to struggle to stay relevant," said Mr Mette Kurth, a bankruptcy lawyer.

"And that is their struggle right now. Their core identity is based on what now feels outdated by women."

Model Karlie Kloss recently told Vogue that she decided to stop working with Victoria's Secret because the image was not "truly reflective" of who she was and the "kind of message I want to send to young women around the world about what it means to be beautiful".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2019, with the headline 'Victoria's Secret hires first transgender model'. Subscribe