With her piercing aqua eyes complementing the gold-tinted metallic Yves Saint Laurent gown, Valentina Sampaio poses defiantly for her close-up, dominating Vogue Paris’s March cover. It is stunning, bold and reveals the most audacious side of Vogue Paris yet, presenting its first-ever cover with a transgender model. Below the sea of purple light surrounding Sampaio, the cover reads “Transgender beauty: How it’s shaking up the world,” a cover line which makes the action even more groundbreaking.
In this one page, Vogue Paris completely deconstructs decades-old standards of beauty and advocates for an underrepresented yet powerful group of people. Sampaio is not the first transgender femme-fatale to be featured on the front cover of a magazine. Actress Laverne Cox from the Netflix original Orange is the New Black, appeared on the cover of Time magazine in June 2014. Caitlyn Jenner, former Olympic champion, debuted her transition on the cover of Vanity Fair in 2015.
Emmanuelle Alt, the editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris and the decision-maker behind this issue’s cover girl, wrote an editorial letter accompanying the bold cover which shatters social norms and praises Sampaio. Alt describes her reasoning behind the choice of this model as not merely because of her striking looks or shining personality, but because Sampaio “embodies an age-old arduous struggle to be recognized and not to be perceived as Other, a gender exile.” Alt’s motive is to normalize transgender models as any other model who happens to be strutting the runway. She strives to create a world in which it is not necessary to mention that someone is transgender.
Vogue Paris could not have picked a more optimal time to release this daring edition, as March is the month in which the world celebrates both International Women’s Day on March 8 and International Day of Transgender Visibility on March 31, a day dedicated to commending the transgender community as well as raising awareness for the discrimination faced by them.
On a less festive note, the world witnessed the Trump administration’s reversal of a protected transgender policy by disallowing transgender students from using the restroom in public schools with which gender they identify. These events display the current sentiments toward the transgender community in both the fashion industry and society, a wave of acceptance and a wave of rejection.
As symbols of relentless strength and challengers of conformity, transgender people have continued the fight that many activists started long ago: to spread a message of love, recognition and visibility of people of all kind. The fashion industry is paving a bright path for a hopeful future with choices like these.
Nevertheless, the fight is not officially over; Alt points out that “only when a transgendered person poses on the front cover of a fashion magazine and it is no longer necessary to write an editorial on the subject will we know that the battle is won.”