Valentina Sampaio NFT

Pioneering Transgender Model Valentina Sampaio Partners with Creative Teams and Charities for Groundbreaking NFT Debut.

Written by Sinead Bovell


When my talent management agency, The Lions, told me they were gearing up to drop their first NFT, it felt like my two worlds were colliding in the most beautiful way possible. As a futurist, I spend a significant portion of my time rabbit-holing down the world of emerging technologies.

As a fashion model, I get the opportunity to play dress-up while flexing my creative muscles by channeling characters and moods that tell the story behind the clothes. An NFT drop is a perfect storm of the two.

In case you aren’t familiar with this new digital space, an NFT stands for non-fungible token. They are unique digital files that live on the Blockchain:

  • The non-fungible part means that the asset is not directly replaceable or interchangeable. There is nothing exactly like it. It’s one of a kind. Unlike money, for example, which is fungible. If I had a stack of dollar bills and passed you one, it wouldn’t matter which one I gave you. A dollar bill is interchangeable with any other dollar bill.
  • The token part refers to the digital nature of NFTs. They are digital assets that exist on the Blockchain. Which means you can forever verify the ownership of that digital asset. For example, if you purchased an NFT of a digital art piece, you are really buying the unique string of characters (i.e., the jpeg file) that houses the art.
  • NFTs can really be anything digital. From a tweet to a digital piece of art.

Over the past six months, we’ve seen a gold rush of NFTs. Most famously, digital artist Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold an autographed tweet for $2.5 million. Exciting stuff. But there is something more enchanting about NFTs. Unlike material assets that tend to fade overtime, NFTs provide an opportunity to digitally tell a story that will exist for eternity. A gift in perpetuity for generations to come.

If you are going to say something using an NFT, why not make it meaningful?

This presents a unique opportunity for the fashion industry; a world that prides itself on storytelling and expression through wearable art, which is currently turning the page to a more inclusive story.

Valentina Sampaio is an extraordinary trans supermodel and activist who is also signed with The Lions, and this year she attended her first Met Gala; arguably one of the most important and iconic nights of the year for fashion. A career marked by a series of firsts, Sampaio is the first transgender model to ever appear on the cover of Vogue. She is also the first trans Sports Illustrated model, as well as the first to be signed by Victoria’sSecret. It’s a career that deserves an NFT and a standing ovation.

When we say “fashion is changing,” it’s models like Sampaio who are driving it.

The theme of this year’s Met Gala was American Independence, which raised a unique point of reflection for Sampaio:

What does it mean to be an American if you are trans?”

In America, trans people are over four times more likely than cis people to experience violent crime. In 2020 alone, there were 44 homicides of trans people. Sampaio is using fashion’s biggest night out, plus the power of technology, to say something about this epidemic of violence against the transgender community.

Monday evening, as Sampaio walked the red carpet of the Met Gala in the physical world in Iris van Herpen, she also shared the names of American trans lives lost this year on a computer generated dress designed by digital artist NERI, via a parallel virtual reality expressed through short film. Her dress in the physical world, as well as the virtual world, symbolized and memorialized those lives.

The computer generated version of the dress is for sale as an NFT on https://lambadadyedredwhiteblue.com and the proceeds will be donated to charities on the frontlines of the fight for LGBTQIA rights.

Valentina Sampaio NFT
Valentina Sampaio NFT

 

The short film, Lambada Dyed Red White and Blue, directed and written by Branislav Jankic and Jesse Ball, premiered as Valentina walked the Met Gala’s red carpet.

“This project arrives at a crucial time. When our society turns against its own—who is it that is injured? There is no puzzle. We must see trans Americans as they are, a gentle community extending its hands, lifting its proud head. These beautiful faces—full of all the possibility nascent in the human vocabulary of life and change—point the way.” — Branislav Jankic and Jesse Ball

V Magazine went live with a digital cover of Valentina wearing the dress.

When companies, artists, and charities from around the world have come together for this kind of initiative, it just goes to show that when we use technology for good, its reach and ability to bring us together is infinite.

When I asked her about the impact she hoped her presence at the 2021 Met Gala would have on the trans community and beyond, Sampaio thoughtfully summarized her aims:

“I hope that young trans women can see women like us at the Met Gala and other cultural epicenters, and come to know that trans women do belong. Our existence and visibility matter. Branislav Jankic and Jesse Ball’s new film begins with the beautiful diversity and joy of the transgender community, and quickly moves to spotlight the urgent epidemic of violence facing transgender people; particularly transgender women of color.

Together with partners at The Lions and LUKSO, we hope our film and NERI’s striking NFT raise visibility for the trans community, and create an urgent call to action for the world to proudly and strongly stand with trans people.”

“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 the best talents of our time have come together to share a powerful and meaningful message of what it means to be still today one of us, who don’t fall inside the conservative conforms of society,” said Marjorie Hernandez de Vogelsteller, Founder and CEO of LUKSO.

Sampaio’s statement about the realities of trans people in America will live on long past this year’s Met Gala in the form of that Valentina Sampaio NFT. Unlike art in the physical world, as her NFT is bought and sold over time on the Blockchain, the proceeds will continue to go to the original charities in perpetuity.

NFTs are built on irreplaceability and timelessness. Fashion is built on storytelling. When you come across a story like Sampaio’s that will be told through fashion and become everlasting through the power of an NFT, it truly feels serendipitous.