French Vogue Features A Transgender Model On The Cover For The First Time

Yet again, the French appear to be one step ahead of America in the move towards diversity in the fashion industry. Despite being a few years behind Beverly Johnson's cover of AmericanVogue in 1974, in 1988 Naomi Campbell became the first African-American model to cover French Vogue. In 2007, then-editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld put Andre J., a black, androgynous model, next to Carolyn Murphy on its November cover. Today, the publication continues its stride towards representation with its March cover, which features transgender model Valentina Sampaio.

A photo posted by Vogue Paris (@vogueparis) on

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Shot by photographer duo Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot and styled by the magazine's editor-in-chief, Emmanuelle Alt, the cover is accompanied by the lines 'Transgender beauty: How they're shaking up the world." The cover was released this morning, in the middle of New York Fashion Week, where the topic of diversity on the runways continues to be a conversation dominating the industry. In a post of the cover from the magazine's official Instagram account, the caption reads, "This month we are proud to celebrate transgender beauty and how models like Valentina Sampaio, who is posing for her first ever Vogue cover, are changing the face of fashion and deconstructing prejudice."

In a stateside breakfast with American Vogue's fashion features director Mark Holgate, Alt explained why featuring the relatively unknown Sampaio on the cover — solo — felt so right. She's seemingly preparing their readership for the day when other transgender models can be featured on magazine covers without the need to disclose their gender identities - and when that's a reality, it'll be a major victory for societal acceptance of a wide gender identity spectrum.

"We are living in a world, what is happening right now, we are stepping back,” she told Holgate. “Instead of being in a constant evolution, which is what should happen, human rights...they’re not going in a good direction. This cover is about the importance of those rights, and that we still need to make progress on an awful lot of stuff." Recently, top model Hanne Gaby Odiele came out as intersex, adding an important narrative to the same conversation. (The 29-year-old model has been a regular on the covers of international editions of Vogue for years.)

Appearing on the cover of a storied magazine like Vogue continues to be a major triumph for models, especially those who grace multiple editions of the magazine in their career. That coup, and the success that follows, is why Sampaio's cover is especially unique. It's not just because she's transgender. It's because she's featured and styled on the issue in a way that any other female-born model would be, and not fetishized because of her gender identity.

According to Alt's conversation with Holgate, after confirming to Sampaio and her agent that the cover was indeed going to print, the model couldn't believe it. Alt vows to work with Sampaio again, which is a testament to French Vogue's longstanding tradition of pushing the envelope forward.
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