Laverne Cox caught the public’s eye in her brilliant performance as Sophia Burset in the hit Netflix TV show Orange is the New Black. Cox’s character was a trans woman in prison fighting for the right to receive her hormones medication. For many of us, that character was the first open door into learning about trans women and the obstacles that they face daily. Cox’s role as Sophia was a very important piece of popular culture that allowed people, especially young adults, to become aware of and educated on trans women. But how did Laverne Cox get to Orange is the New Black?
Laverne started as a dancer at Marymount Manhattan College, but soon turned to acting. She started her career doing plays and appearing in small films during her senior year of college. While in college, Laverne started her transition and went from being gender conforming to being more femme, eventually beginning her medical transition and identifying as female. During this time, Cox was performing in drag clubs although she never truly identified as a drag queen.
Orange is the New Black was Cox’s big break, and it was really big. Her role earned her 3 Emmy nominations, a first in history for transgender women. Since the beginning of the Netflix show, Cox has gone on to acquire many other firsts. Such as actually winning and Emmy award for a film she executively produced called Laverne Cox presents: The T Word. And finally in 2017 she went on to become the first transgender person to play a transgender series regular on broadcast TV in her new role on CBS’s show Doubt.
But beyond TV and acting, Cox is also known for her advocacy for trans rights; speaking on the issues trans women have faced, particularly trans women of color. Cox works hard to highlight the narrative that Trans Women are systematic pushed into crime, homelessness and sex work. In 2017 Cox spoke against certain actions that the Trump administration had taken to disenfranchise trans women. Cox has also advocated for the HIV/AIDS community, making herself the first spokeswoman for Johnson and Johnson’s Band-Aid Red campaign. In an interview that Cox did with Johnson and Johnson she explains why advocating for the HIV/AIDS community and relief efforts are so important to her: “It’s about all of the friends in my life whom I have lost to HIV/AIDS over the years. It’s about the folks in my life who are currently living with HIV and the stigma they face. It’s about being in that fight, in partnership with them. It’s a tribute to them—and I love actionable things that people can do to make a difference.” Now you can find her actively on social media still speaking out against the injustice trans women face.