Victoria’s Secret casts First Openly Transgender Woman as a Model

The selection of Valentina Sampaio, 22, was seen by some critics of the brand as long overdue. “Never stop dreaming,” she wrote on Instagram.

By guest author Christine Hauser from the New York Times

Valentina Sampaio (all captions courtesy of the New York Times)

Victoria’s Secret has cast an openly transgender woman for the first time, hiring the Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio for a catalog photo shoot, her agent said.

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

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

“Never stop dreaming,” Ms. Sampaio wrote on Instagram.

For a brand that has struggled with criticism that it is anachronistic and out of touch, Ms. 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 Ms. Sampaio’s Instagram post.

It was only last year that Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of the lingerie company’s parent organization, L Brands, expressed a lack of interest in casting transgender models. He later apologized for the remark, which had come in an interview with Vogue.

On Monday, August 5, 2019, the company announced to employees that Mr. Razek was retiring.

A representative for Victoria’s Secret did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

In November, Mr. Razek was quoted as saying he did not think the company needed to cast models who are “transsexuals” in Victoria’s Secret shows. He later apologized, saying on the company’s Twitter account that his remark “came across as insensitive.”

“To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show,” he said. “We’ve had transgender models come to castings … and like many others they didn’t make it … But it was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.”

GLAAD, which promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, said Ms. 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.

Valentina Sampaio, the first openly transgender woman selected as a model by Victoria’s Secret. Her agent said it was “a great opportunity to break barriers.”

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 criticized 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.

Demonstrators outside a Victoria’s Secret in London last year urged the fashion industry to increase diversity

“If you can’t modernize, if you can’t escape your roots from where you started, you are going to struggle to stay relevant,” said Mette H. Kurth, a bankruptcy lawyer who worked with Frederick’s of Hollywood, said on Monday. “And that is their struggle right now. Their core identity is based on what now feels outdated by women.”

The model Karlie Kloss recently told Vogue that she had 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.”