Actor Spotlight: Laverne Cox

By Daley Wilhelm

     Laverne Cox seems to be suddenly everywhere (even at Ball State this February 23rd at 7:30 in Emens Auditorium). Cox has been capturing attention as not only a fantastic actress, but also as a writer, producer, and LGBT advocate.

     After her break-out role as Sophia Burset in the award-winning Netflix series Orange is the New Black, television couldn’t seem to get enough of Cox. Just this year she has starred in fan favorite shows like The Mindy Project and Faking It providing not only excellent performances but also important representation of transgender people. Before the smashing success of the Netflix show, however, Cox was already making a name for herself. First appearing on television in 2008 on I Want to Work for Diddy, she made a big impression as she educated audiences about transgender people. In 2010, Cox became the first African American trans woman to produce and star in a series, with the VH1 show TRANSform Me.

Cox starred in a number of shows before Orange is the New Black rolled around, and has always served as an advocate for trans people. Just last year, she released the documentary Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, which follows seven transgender teens as they go through their respective lives. The documentary introduced audiences to the struggles transgender people go through such as discrimination and invasive questions.

Invasive questioning is something Cox has had to field throughout multiple interviews now that every talk show wants a piece of her. She unerringly handles interviewers’ ignorance with grace, gently but firmly correcting their mistakes or steering the conversation away from offensive inquiries. Cox wields her fame as a tool to bring understanding and acceptance of trans people.

Through her talk show appearances and various interviews, Cox has worked towards bringing attention to the injustices transgender people face every day. Last year, Cox joined a campaign fighting against a law in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows police to arrest anyone they believe of being a prostitute, something that transgender women of color are often stereotyped as, thus leading to wrongful arrests. When GLAAD awarded Cox with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which is awarded to openly LGBT professionals who promote equality, she brought attention to the arrest of Monica Jones, a transgender woman of color and activist for sex workers who was arrested under that law just the day before Cox’s acceptance speech.

In the same speech, she also mentioned the plight of Cece MacDonald, a trans African American woman who was harassed, attacked, charged for murder when she defended herself, and then incarcerated in a men’s prison. Her story will be told in full in Cox’s documentary slated for release next year entitled, FREE CECE. Cox says that Cece was someone she thought of every day as she played the role of another transgender woman of color in prison in Orange is the New Black.

The violent, and often fatal, danger that transgender women of color face each day is a huge part of her “Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood” collegiate tour coming next week to Ball State. Cox will touch on moving past gender expectations, and her life from its start as a bullied kid in Alabama to a woman whose face is featured on magazines like Glamour and Time.

Cox is lauded as a powerful speaker and an inspiration to all those that hear her, definitely someone not to miss this Monday night.

Laverne Cox will present
“Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood” as part of the 2014-2015 Excellence in Leadership Speaker Series at Ball State University on Monday, February 23. The event is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.