Valentina Sampaio, who made headlines last year as Sports Illustrated’s first out transgender swimsuit model, is back in the spotlight this week with a new project that combines fashion, non-fungible tokens, digital art, and the return of “the forbidden dance.”
Sampaio stunned in a crimson-hued Iris van Herpen gown with elongated sleeves at the MET gala in New York City on Monday. The Victoria’s Secret model, who appeared to be wearing angel wings, waved them in the air for the onlookers. The stunning images ended up on hundreds of websites covering fashion’s biggest night.
Transgender representation was at an all-time high at the iconic event. Actors Elliot Page, Indya Moore, and Emmy nominee Michaela Jae Rodriguez joined Sampaio on the set. Nikkie Tutorials, Kim Petras, and Hunter Schafer, a model/activist, were also among the celebrities serving looks.
Sampaio also launched an NFT and a new music video at the gala to raise awareness of trans lives, trans murders, and advocate organizations working on behalf of the LGBTQ community, including GLAAD, Pride Live, and the Ali Forney Center.
“At alarming rates, transgender young people face the horrors of homelessness. The Ali Forney Center is honored to be one of the recipients of this important and moving video “In a statement, Zachary Cohen, Director of Development at The Ali Forney Center, said “Valentina, thank you for expressing the beauty and power of trans people and for providing critical funds to house, support, and celebrate these incredible and deserving young people.”
The auction of a computer-generated dress designed by Gia Djahaia, aka NERI, which Sampaio “wears” in the video, is a historic aspect of this project benefiting those three LGBTQ organizations. The bidding had reached a quarter-million dollar mark as of press time.
The CGI dress doesn’t appear until near the end of the music video, and it’s an arresting image: “A blossoming dress of blood—to show the cost of the struggle, a cost that continues and continues, that is being paid even now,” according to the project’s website.
So far in 2021, there have been at least 36 murders of trans Americans in the United States; last year, the toll was at least 44. However, this pales in comparison to Brazil, where data shows at least 175 murders of transgender people in 2020, a 41 percent increase over 2019. The vast majority of murder victims, both there and in the United States, were Black women.
Sampaio’s video not only addresses the global epidemic of lethal violence against trans people, particularly trans women of color, by naming the victims one by one; it is also a celebration of trans joy.
“The blockchain and fashion communities brought this project to life with the common goal of using the transformative power of art to uplift,” Sampaio explained in an exclusive statement. “We have opened a portal into an alternate reality in which everyone can question what it truly means to be an American and where the beautiful diversity of trans lives is rightfully celebrated. Trans women in the United States and Brazil are not victims; we are stunning. Our continued visibility will make the world a better place for everyone.”
Sampaio collaborated with Lions Management and blockchain startup Lukso on this project, which was conceived by Christiana Tran, Branislav Jankic, Jesse Ball, and Lusko co-founder Marjorie Hernandez de Vogelsteller. The video, titled Lambada Dyed Red White Blue, was written and directed by Jankic and Ball. It includes Lambada, a hit song from 1989 by the French-Brazilian band Kaoma that was quite popular in the 1990s.
Sampaio sings and dances with more than a dozen young trans Instagram influencers on Rockaway Beach in New York City in the video. The scene then shifts from the beachside celebration to the surf, and the mood becomes solemn. In keeping with the MET gala’s theme of American Independence, the supermodel poses the question, “What does it mean to be an American if you’re trans?”
According to Hernandez de Vogelsteller, “Lambada Dyed Red White Blue represents a cultural moment and a convergence of creative technologies, blockchain, the creative power of the authors, and the true spirit of our time.” “A truly collaborative effort, in which some of our time’s best talents have come together to share a powerful and meaningful message of what it means to be one of us today, who do not fit within society’s conservative conforms.”
The online auction is open until Friday, September 17. Previous NFT art auctions have fetched far more than the current top bid of $250,000. In June, 18-year-old Victor Langlois, aka FEWOCiOUS, sold both physical and digital art documenting his gender transition for $2.16 million at Christie’s. However, the NFT high water mark remains Beepie’s Everydays, which sold in March for $69 million.