#WCIW: Laverne Cox
Style Icon. Groundbreaking Actress. Trans-Rights Activist.
In 2013, she made her mainstream debut as the first trans-woman of color in her portrayal of Sophia Burset in Netflix’s breakout hit, Orange Is the New Black. Raw, gritty, honest and strong, Laverne Cox has proven herself to be the trailblazer for the transgender community. Over the next four years, she received more than 14 awards of recognition for the advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights.
Cox was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama by a single mother. A twin, her brother now plays Sophia’s “pre-transition” self on OITNB. She was a performer from a very young age and was always singing, dancing, and acting. Mercilessly bullied at school and around town for being “different”, Laverne attempted suicide at only 11 years of age. Acceptance to the Alabama School for Fine Arts in Birmingham gave her life new purpose. It was at ASFA that Cox would fine-tune her skills in dance and gain the confidence she needed to pursue her BA in Dance, first at Indiana University at Bloomington, then later at Marymount Manhattan College in NYC.
Cox’s move to New York City was, in itself, also very liberating for the young, gender non-conforming teen. She began acting in many of the theatre department’s plays and began to dream of becoming a professional actor on the stage and screen. She also became a fixture of the New York City club scene and loved to go out dancing, sometimes taking gigs in drag. It was during this time that she began her female transition. Even after her transition, Laverne frequently performed in drag at clubs and restaurants in NYC—a job that she still maintained until the end of filming for the first season of Orange Is the New Black.
Since her rise to stardom, Laverne Cox has become an inspirational style icon with her fearless and fierce approach to the red carpet. Cox has even offered her skills assessing others’ red carpet looks as a guest on The Fashion Police. She has appeared in numerous publications and, most recently, was introduced as the face of Beyonce’s new athleisure line, Ivy Park. A release for the line stated that the brand “pushes back against the homogenized blur of social media, where cookie cutter images of young men and women dictate how we ‘should’ look in order to fit in or belong.”
As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Laverne has consistently made a point to speak out and actively fight for transgender and LGBTQ+ rights. She is often a keynote speaker at college graduations and events and has used her platform to bring awareness and affect change. In 2014, the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Cox served as the Grand Marshal of the New York City Pride Parade. She led the procession alongside Dolores Nettles, the mother of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman who was beaten to death in Harlem in 2013. That same year, she was also the recipient of the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her work and activism, and named Glamour’s Woman of the Year, receiving the Glamour Award for The Advocate.
Laverne Cox has shown that she is not only a supremely talented and groundbreaking actress, but a serious style icon and a fierce fighter for equality, as well. For all of these qualities, Laverne Cox is this week’s #WCIW.