Victoria’s Secret is casting its first openly transgender model, Valentina Sampaio, according to the Brazilian model’s agent, less than a year after a company official said it wouldn’t feature transgender models in its fashion shows.
“I confirm she will be featured in the new Pink campaign that will be released in Mid August,” Sampaio’s agent, Erio Zanon, said in an emailed statement to HuffPost on Monday. He said that the brand contacted Sampaio through Instagram in April and then later confirmed her for the VS shoot after a casting.
He added that Sampaio, 22, “is very happy for it and she hopes that it shall contribute to break barriers and to make a step to more inclusivity and representation for everybody.”
Victoria’s Secret didn’t immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.
“Orange Is the New Black” actress and activist Laverne Cox, who is transgender, wrote “wow finally!” in the comments of the photo.
Lais Ribeiro, a Victoria’s Secret Angel, commented with clapping hands emojis to the post and later tweeted about the news.
“This make me so happy,” Ribeiro, who is also Brazilian, wrote, adding that Sampaio is the first trans model to work with the brand.
While Sampaio’s hiring is a step forward for inclusivity and representation, the news itself seems hollow, especially following comments made by L Brands chief marketing officer Ed Razek — who retired from his position on Monday, just one day after Sampaio shot her first campaign for the brand.
At L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, Razek was key in selecting the models who would appear in the lingerie company’s annual fashion show.
Razek told Vogue in November 2018 that the company wouldn’t hire “transsexuals” or curvier models for the brand’s iconic fashion shows. (Generally, the word “transgender” is preferred over the older, medical term “transsexual,” which is widely considered to be derogatory.)
“We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world,” Razek said.
“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,” he added. “Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special.”
He later apologized for his tone-deaf comments in a statement shared on Victoria’s Secret’s Twitter account.
“My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive,” he said in the statement. “I apologize. To be clear, we would absolutely cast a transgender model for the show.”
In the statement, Razek went on: “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.”
That news doesn’t come as much of a shock as Les Wexner, the founder and CEO of L Brands, said in a memo obtained by CNBC earlier this year that the show could be leaving network television this year due to low ratings.
Wexner himself is currently being investigated by L Brands for his relationship with financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was further charged with the sex trafficking of minors in July.
With a file from Connor Garel