“I remember being really conscious of not wanting to fight with another black woman on camera. I did an interview and the producers were like, “Well, this [other black woman on the show] said this about you. What do you have to say about that?” And I said I’m not fighting with another black woman on TV. Even during my elimination episode, when it came down to myself and another black woman, my mother — after watching — said, “Why didn’t you defend yourself?” And I just didn’t want to give television the satisfaction of seeing two black women going at it. We see that so much.”
“Orange Is The New Black” star Laverne Cox is the subject of a lengthly profile over at Buzzfeed, where she gives a fascinating walk-through of her long road to stardom. After moving to New York City to attend Marymount Manhattan College, Cox worked in nightclubs and acted in student films. Then, in 2008, she got cast on P. Diddy’s reality show, “I Want To Work For Diddy.” Believe it or not, reality TV was a positive experience for her. She credits Diddy for giving her exposure on national television, although she is very realistic and measured about what “a dubious distinction” it is to be “the first black trans woman to appear on a reality TV show.” One matter of principle for Cox, she explained, was refusing to play into the “angry black woman” stereotype that reality TV producers tried to coax out of her and instead held her tongue in situations where she otherwise might have spoken up. In a pop cultural landscape with brats like Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan making headlines, it’s refreshing to see a thoughtful, principled actress succeeding. [BuzzFeed]
“I wasn’t offended. I thought it was a shame that she is in this country, that she would wear blackface and not understand the historical implications of that. I don’t think Julianne is making a specific informed choice to comment on blackness. I just think it’s out of this ignorance. That’s really sad.”
I really appreciate Laverne Cox‘s take on Julianne Hough wearing blackface as part of her Crazy Eyes/”Orange Is The New Black” Halloween costume because it draws attention to the larger context in which Hough would think that part of her costume was okay. That people have not been educated on the racist history of blackface and the forms it has taken over the years is sad. And it’s a shame that people who call out blackface for being racist are often dismissed as being too sensitive. It’s good that Julianne apologized and hopefully learned something from the incident, but it’s troubling that not a single person on her team or in her entourage thought to advise her against it, perhaps because they’re also ignorant about its racist history or perhaps don’t care. And Hough is hardly alone in wearing skin color as a Halloween costume; that so many people think blackface — as a costume, on fashion magazine covers, in advertisements, at parties etc. — is okay is the real problem. [Us Weekly]
“Orange is the New Black” fans, prepare to fall even harder for the amazing Laverne Cox, the transgender actress and activist who plays Sophia on the breakout Netflix show. In this fantastic interview for Meredith Viera’s Lives YouTube channel, as part of their Overshare series, Laverne speaks openly about her gender transition, shares photos from her past and discusses the activism she does on behalf of the trans community, which recently won her a Courage Award. ”Trans people’s lives matter,” she says. “They deserve love, accepting and belonging.” You go, girl. (Oh, and Laverne will be answering questions on Lives’ Twitter today at 3 p.m. EST, so follow them!) [YouTube]
Now that Chelsea Manning has expressed a desire to medically transition through hormone replacement therapy, there are a lot of questions circling about what Leavenworth looks like for a trans woman, and how exactly someone might transition from male to female in prison. While Manning’s case itself is complicated, the question of what kind of healthcare someone deserves in prison is fairly simple. There are clear legal and moral arguments for Manning receiving hormones once they are prescribed by a doctor. This isn’t about what she did or did not do; it’s about the basic commitment we make as a society when we lock someone up.
When someone commits a crime, no matter how heinous, we still have an obligation as a society to provide their basic needs while they serve their time. As Lesley Kinzel argued when writing about the Michelle Kosilek case last year, “What makes us better than murderers is that we value human life, even the lives of those who don’t value life themselves, their own included.” Whether or not you agree with Manning’s release of classified information, we consider a decent life a collective value, enshrined in the basic rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution. Courts have already held that the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment confers a right to adequate medical care in prison, and medical experts and courts have consistently found that hormone therapy is a medically necessary treatment for transgender people for whom it’s prescribed. Keep reading »
A show about women in prison could have easily devolved into mindless titillation or stereotypical boredom. But Netflix’s breakout hit “Orange Is The New Black” has skillfully avoided either trapping. Instead, viewers are treated to a show with well-thought-out story lines, sharp social commentary, diverse, multi-faceted characters with compelling backgrounds, and stellar performances. One of these standouts is actress Laverne Cox, who captures audiences with her portrayal of transgender prison inmate, Sophia Burset.
Looking at her career thus far, it’s easy to see why some have deemed Laverne a trailblazer in many ways. Not only has she made the enviable leap from reality star (appearing on VH1’s “I Want to Work For Diddy”) to skilled actress, but she’s also a producer and transgender advocate. Laverne’s visibility as a trans actress of color is breaking barriers on many levels, and hopefully will pave the way for more rich roles created for trans actors.
I had the chance to speak with Cox and learned more about working with Jodie Foster, her relationship to her activism and her art, and the future of trans actors. Keep reading »
“I’m insecure about how I look … I was looking at some stills from the show that are up online. [In the past] I was like, “When I am successful, I’m going to look differently. I will have had more surgery, I will be thinner. And that will equal me being successful.” And then I was looking at myself with all the imperfections that I see, and still people are relating to this character, people are connecting to her. On social media people love Sophia. So I’m on this show that is kind of a hit now and I don’t look like Beyoncé. I haven’t had the extreme makeover to look like that, so maybe I can just be authentically myself. Maybe that’s enough.
A lot of it is just about me wanting to beat myself up because I’m not pretty enough. I’ve had this thing where people are writing all sort of articles, “Laverne Cox has broken the trans glass ceiling.” People are writing all this crazy stuff that I’m this groundbreaking whatever. I have moments where I’m like, I’m not pretty enough or passable enough to be that girl. I’m not pretty enough to really represent the community in this way. Sometimes I sound like a man and all that kind of stuff where I feel like I’m not feminine enough, I’m not enough authentically. Also, I’ve noticed the biggest way that internalized homophobia, racism, or transphobia manifests itself is in how we treat each other.”
– “Orange Is The New Black” actress Laverne Cox, on her insecurities about being a trans role model, and how her internalized transphobia manifests in her life. Cox, who got her start in reality TV — on “I Want To Work For Diddy,” no less — also discusses how difficult it can be to date while trans and visible: Keep reading »