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Laverne Cox

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Laverne Cox
File:Laverne Cox at Paley Fest Orange Is The New Black.jpg
Cox at PaleyFest 2014, representing Orange Is the New Black
Born May 29
Mobile, Alabama, United States
Alma mater Marymount Manhattan College, New York City
Occupation Actress, reality television star, television producer

Laverne Cox (born May 29)[1] is an American actress, reality television star, television producer, and LGBT advocate,[2][3][4] best known for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black, for which she became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the acting category,[5][6] and the first to be nominated for an Emmy Award since composer/musician Angela Morley in 1990.[7]

She is also known for appearing as a contestant on the first season of VH1's I Want to Work for Diddy, and for producing and co-hosting the VH1 makeover television series TRANSform Me. In April 2014, Cox was honored by GLAAD with its Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her work as an advocate for the transgender community.[8] On June 9, 2014, Cox became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine.[5][9][10]

Early life

Laverne Cox was born in Mobile, Alabama and has a twin brother, M Lamar, who portrays the pre-transitioning Sophia (as Marcus) in Orange Is the New Black.[11][12][13] Cox stated she attempted suicide at the age of 11, when she noticed that she had developed feelings about her male classmates and had been bullied for several years for not acting "the way someone assigned male at birth was supposed to act".[14][15] She is a graduate of the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Alabama, where she studied creative writing before switching to dance.[16] She then studied for two years at Indiana University Bloomington[17] before transferring to Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, where she switched from dancing to acting.[12][18]


Cox is best known for her recurring role in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black as Sophia Burset, a trans woman sent to prison for credit-card fraud. She previously appeared as a contestant on the first season of I Want to Work for Diddy, as well as producing and co-hosting the VH1 makeover television series TRANSform Me, which made her the first African-American transgender person to produce and star in her own TV show.[19][20] Both those shows were nominated for GLAAD media awards for outstanding reality programs, and when Diddy won in 2009, Cox accepted the award at the GLAAD ceremony, giving a speech described by the San Francisco Sentinel as "among the most poignant because [it] reminded us how important it is to tell our stories, all of our stories."[21][22][23] She has also acted in a number of TV shows and films, including Law and Order: SVU, Bored to Death, and Musical Chairs.

In addition to her work as an entertainer, she speaks and writes about transgender rights and other current affairs in a variety of media outlets, such as the Huffington Post.[20] Her role in Orange Is the New Black provides her a platform to speak on the rights of trans people. In a recent interview, she stated, "Sophia is written as a multi-dimensional character who the audience can really empathize with—all of the sudden they're empathizing with a real Trans person. And for Trans folks out there, who need to see representations of people who are like them and of their experiences, that's when it becomes really important."[24]

In January 2014, Cox joined trans woman Carmen Carrera on Katie Couric's syndicated show, Katie. Couric referred to transgender people as "transgenders", and after being rebuffed by Carerra on the subject of her surgeries, specifically what genital augmentation she had done, turned the same question to Cox. Cox responded,
I do feel there is a preoccupation with that. The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people. And then we don't get to really deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people's lives is that so often we are targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average; if you are a trans person of color, that rate is four times the national average. The homicide rate is highest among trans women. If we focus on transition, we don't actually get to talk about those things.[25]

News outlets such as Salon, The Huffington Post, and Business Insider covered what was characterized by Salon writer Katie McDonough as Couric's "clueless" and "invasive" line of questioning.[26]

Cox was on the cover of the June 9, 2014, issue of Time, and was interviewed for the article "The Transgender Tipping Point" by Katy Steinmetz, which ran in that issue and the title of which was also featured on the cover; this makes Cox the first openly transgender person on the cover of Time.[9][27][28]

Later in 2014 Cox became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black.[29][30][7]

Also in 2014, Cox appeared in John Legend's video for the song "You & I (Nobody in the World)".[31]

Cox also joined a campaign that year against a Phoenix, Arizona law which allows police to arrest anyone suspected of "manifesting prostitution", and which she feels targets transgender women of color, following the conviction of activist (and transgender woman of color) Monica Jones.[32] Cox stated, ""All over the country, trans women are targeted simply for being who they are. Laws like this manifestation law really support systematically the idea that girls like me, girls like me and Monica, are less than [others] in this country,"[32] Later that year the Sylvia Rivera Law Project released a video in which Cox read a letter from transgender inmate Synthia China Blast, addressing common issues faced by trans inmates.[33] But when Cox learned that Blast was found guilty of the 1993 rape and murder of 13-year-old Ebony Williams, she wrote on her Tumblr, "I was not aware of the charges for which she was convicted. If I had been aware of those charges, I would have never agreed to read the letter."[33]

Cox was featured in the annual "Rebels" issue of V in late 2014.[34] For the issue, V asked celebrities and artists to nominate who they saw as their personal rebels, and Natasha Lyonne nominated Cox.[34] Cox was also on the cover of the October 2014 issue of Essence magazine, along with actresses Alfre Woodard, Nicole Beharie, and Danai Gurira.[35]

On October 17, 2014 Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, an hour-long documentary executive-produced and narrated by Cox, premiered on MTV and Logo simultaneously.[36]

Also in 2014, Cox was featured on the fifth anniversary cover of C☆NDY magazine along with 13 other transgender women - Janet Mock, Carmen Carrera, Geena Rocero, Isis King, Gisele Alicea, Leyna Ramous, Dina Marie, Nina Poon, Juliana Huxtable, Niki M'nray, Pêche Di, Carmen Xtravaganza and Yasmine Petty.[37]

In 2015 Cox (among others) posed nude for the Allure annual "Nudes" issue, becoming the first openly transgender actress to do so.[38]


  • 2013 - Anti-Violence Project 2013 Courage Award honoree[39]
  • November 2013 - Reader's Choice Award at Out Magazine‍ '​s OUT100 Gala, honoring the magazine's selection of 2013s 100 "most compelling people of the year."[40]
  • 2014 - Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine.[41][42]
  • 2014 - included in the annual Root 100; this list honors "standout black leaders, innovators and culture shapers" age 45 and younger.[43]
  • 2014 - topped the British newspaper The Guardian‍ '​s third annual World Pride Power List, which ranks the world's most influential LGBT people.[44]
  • 2014 - Named on the EBONY Power 100 list.[46]
  • 2015 - Named on the 2015 OUT Power 50 List.[47]
  • 2015 - included in the People World's Most Beautiful Women List.[48]
  • 2015 - Named in the 2015 Time 100 Most Influential People List; her entry was written by Jazz Jennings.[49]



Year Title Role Notes
2000 Betty Anderson Deirdre Short film
2004 Kings of Brooklyn, TheThe Kings of Brooklyn Girl
2008 All Night Layla Short film
2009 Uncle Stephanie Stephanie
2010 Bronx Paradise Hooker
2011 Carla Cinnamon
2011 Musical Chairs Chantelle
2012 Migraine Lola Short film
2012 Exhibitionists, TheThe Exhibitionists Blithe Stargazer
2013 36 Saints Genesuis
2014 Grand Street Chardonnay
2015 Grandma Deathy


Year Title Role Notes
2008 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Candace Episode: "Closet"
2008 I Want to Work for Diddy Herself 6 episodes
2008 Law & Order Minnie Episode: "Sweetie"
2009 Bored to Death Transgender sex worker Episode: "Stockholm Syndrome"
2010 TRANSform Me Herself Host and producer; 8 episodes
2013–present Orange Is the New Black Sophia Burset 19 episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
2014 Faking It Margot Episode: "Lying Kings and Drama Queens"
2014 Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce Adele Northrop Episode: "Rule No. 426: Fantasyland: A Great Place to Visit"
2015 The Mindy Project Sheena Episode: "What to Expect When You're Expanding"


  1. ^ Spaner, Whitney (2014-06-15). "Trans Actress-Activist Laverne Cox Talks "OITNB," Dream Roles and Starting a Casting Revolution on Stage and Screen". Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  2. ^ "Laverne Cox Bio". Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  3. ^ Erik Piepenburg (December 12, 2010). "Helping Gay Actors Find Themselves Onstage". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Meet the Gay Man and Transgender Woman Who Want to Work for Diddy". AfterElton. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Gjorgievska, Aleksandra; Rothman, Lily (July 10, 2014). "Laverne Cox Is the First Transgender Person Nominated for an Emmy – She Explains Why That Matters". Time. Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  6. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth (February 11, 2015). "Laverne Cox Cast As Transgender Attorney in CBS Legal Drama Pilot". Variety. Retrieved February 11, 2015. ...the first openly transgender actor to be nominated for an Emmy... 
  7. ^ a b Gavin Gaughan. "Obituary: Angela Morley | Television & radio". The Guardian. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2014. A transsexual woman, previously known as Wally Stott, she underwent a sex change in 1972. 
  8. ^ Rich Ferraro (March 31, 2014). "Laverne Cox to be honored at 25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles". GLAAD. Retrieved March 31, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Westcott, Lucy (May 29, 2014). "Laverne Cox Is the First Transgender Person on the Cover of Time". The Wire. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  10. ^ "21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture". Time Magazine. 
  11. ^ Bertstein, Jacob (March 12, 2014). "In Their Own Terms – The Growing Transgender Presence in Pop Culture". The New York Times. Retrieved June 21, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b C.J. Dickson (July 25, 2013). "She's a survivor". Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
  13. ^ "'Orange Is the New Black' Star Laverne Cox on Her Twin Brother's Surprising Role on the Netflix Series". Yahoo TV. August 20, 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
  14. ^ Badash, David (August 18, 2014). "Laverne Cox: I Have One Wish For America". The New Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved August 18, 2014. 
  15. ^ Hughes, Sarah. "Laverne Cox: 'We live in a binary world: it can change'". The Independent. Retrieved June 21, 2014. 
  16. ^ Interview by Will O'Bryan August 8, 2013 (August 8, 2013). "Laverne Cox Rocks – Metro Weekly - Page 2". Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  17. ^ Zinn, Sarah (15 January 2015). "Laverne Cox Details Her Transgender Journey at IU". Indianapolis Monthly. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  18. ^ "Watch: Laverne Cox shoots down host who claimed she was ‘born a boy’ ·". August 5, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2014. 
  19. ^ "TRANSform Me". VH1. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  20. ^ a b "Laverne Cox Bio". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Laverne Cox and Calpernia Addams at GLAAD Awards 2009". 
  22. ^ "GLAAD and MTPC Launch I AM Trans People Speak video series". 
  23. ^ "On the Carpet at the GLAAD Media Awards". San Francisco Sentinel. 
  24. ^ Douvris, Michelle. "Sitting Down With Orange is the New Black Star Laverne Cox". Emertainment Monthly. Retrieved November 9, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Laverne Cox flawlessly shuts down Katie Couric's invasive questions about transgender people". January 7, 2014. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 
  26. ^ "The post-Katie Couric shift: Laverne Cox tells Salon why the media’s so clueless". February 6, 2014. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 
  27. ^ Katy Steinmetz. "The Transgender Tipping Point". TIME. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  28. ^ Myles Tanzer. "Laverne Cox Is on the Cover of Time Magazine". Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  29. ^ "2014 Primetime Emmy nominees". July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  30. ^ "2014 Emmy Awards: 'Orange Is the New Black's' Laverne Cox Is First Transgender Nominee". July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  31. ^ Bendix, Trish (July 11, 2014). "Morning Brew - Jodie Foster is back on the set of "Orange is the New Black"". Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  32. ^ a b "US: Laverne Cox joins #StandWithMonica campaign against Phoenix ‘walking while trans’ law ·". Retrieved August 10, 2014. 
  33. ^ a b Molloy, Parker Marie (August 26, 2014). "Laverne Cox Distances Herself From Controversial Trans Inmate". The Advocate. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  34. ^ a b Sauvalle, Julien (August 22, 2014). "Exclusive First Look: Laverne Cox Honored in V magazine's 'Rebels' Issue". Out. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  35. ^ Vulpo, Mike (August 28, 2014). "Laverne Cox: It Feels "So Good" Having a Diverse Cast on Orange Is the New Black". E! Online (E!). Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  36. ^ Locker, Melissa (October 17, 2014). "Laverne Cox Doc Tackles Transgender Issues For MTV". Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera, Among 14 Trans Stars On "Candy" Magazine Cover". NewNowNext. 
  38. ^ Sasson, Eric. "Bruce Jenner Interview, Cox Photos Not a Transgender Tipping Point". The New Republic. Retrieved 2015-04-28. 
  39. ^ Vieira, Meredith. "Laverne Cox and her Transgender Transformation (OVERSHARE EP 3)". Lives with Meredith Vieira. YouTube. Retrieved November 21, 2013. 
  40. ^ "Reader's Choice Award". Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  41. ^ "Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  42. ^ Glamour Magazine. "Laverne Cox Is a Glamour Woman of the Year for 2014:". Glamour. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  43. ^ Juro, Rebecca (September 11, 2014). "Root 100 Recognizes African-American LGBT Luminaries". The Advocate. Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  44. ^ Materville Studios - Host of Windy City Times. "Gay team makes history; Laverne Cox tops world list - 520 - Gay Lesbian Bi Trans News Archive - Windy City Times". Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  45. ^ "Watch: Ellen Page presents ‘Orange is the New Black’ star Laverne Cox with GLAAD award ·". April 13, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2014. 
  46. ^ "EBONY Magazine Unveils Its 2014 EBONY Power 100 List - NAACP LDF". 
  47. ^ "Power 50 2015 | Out Magazine". 2015-04-14. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  48. ^ McDonald, James (2015-03-30). "Laverne Cox Is One of People's Most Beautiful Women | Out Magazine". Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  49. ^ "Laverne Cox by Jazz Jennings: TIME 100". 2015-04-16. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 

External links