Three-time Emmy nominee Lavern Cox, recently spoke to Instinct Magazine contributing writer, Corey Andrew for an in-depth interview on a range of range topics – from the evolution of the transgender representation in the media and the rise in violence against trans women, to her optimistic outlook for human rights and her new collaboration with of BAND-AID® Brand (RED) to combat aids.
Cox stays busy, whether chewing through difficult dramatic scenes like they were made of candy, or fighting the good fight for equality and trans rights. She is a star, but humble and gracious, willingly sharing the spotlight in sisterhood with her fellow trans game-changers like Isis King, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson and MJ Rodriguez who are leading an evolution of inclusion in Hollywood.
As we began speaking, Cox immediately felt like a familiar presence, not a star I’ve watched on TV. With disarming charm, she put me at ease, by first asking me where I was located and where I was from. I was honored by her curiosity as I shared that I was a proud Jersey boy, and I was calling from Jersey City, New Jersey.
Having accomplished so much, becoming a trailblazer in Hollywood and leading advocate for trans rights, Laverne revels in how far she’s come, reflecting from what she calls her ‘watershed moment’ of realizing all of this was possible. It stemmed from a few years ago when stunning New York City transgender actress Candid Cayne was cast in ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money. Make no mistake about it, that casting was a big deal.
The role Candis played was Carmelita Rainer, a beautiful transsexual who was in a secret relationship with the handsome and wealthy Patrick Darling IV, played by William Baldwin. The show was full of heavy hitters like Donald Sutherland, Lucy Liu, and Blair Underwood … and among them now was Candis, the first openly transgender actress cast in a major television series in a reoccurring role:
“My life changed back in 2007 when Candis Cayne became the first openly, transgender actor, to have a reoccurring role in a prime time television show; that show was “Dirty Sexy Money.” The moment that happened, I said this is our moment. This is our time now. I can be openly who I am and pursue my dream.
I went out and printed 500 postcards that said, “Laverne Cox is the answer to all your acting needs,” and I sent them to agents and casting directors in LA and New York. I got four meetings, and one of those meetings was with my now manager, Paul Hileppo – this was 12 years ago, and that changed my life. If I did not see that, I don’t think I would have believed it was possible to be openly trans and be a working actor. Candis Cayne showed me it was possible. The people who hired Candis Cayne showed me it was possible.”
Cox credits people in influential positions in entertainment for having the vision and foresight to bring about change by casting transgender performers in significant projects and roles where they can thrive. These meaningful representations are relevant because they show transgender actors and actresses are viable and just as bankable as their cis-identified counterparts. The proof is in the pudding when you stop to consider that at this year’s Emmy’s, Cox was up against the likes of veteran actress Phylicia Rashad and the legendary Cicely Tyson.
Cox has a slew of new projects coming out, including a film with Kate Beckinsale, and in addition to finishing the final season of Orange is the New Black, she can be seen on the hit shows A Black Lady Sketch Show and Dear White People. Cox is also the Executive Producer of a powerful documentary, Disclosure,Trans Lives On Screen, which she likens to the critically acclaimed, “Celluloid Closet” that examined the theme of homosexuality in Hollywood films. Similarly, Disclosure will take a close look at how trans people have been represented on film over the last 100 years, as well as the impact of the representations.
Making an impact on society and on a global level is essential to Cox, who does not only bring a level of social consciousness to her work as an actress but also in the brand collaborations to which she lends her notoriety. One such project is her new campaign partnership with (BAND-AID®)RED to help people living with AIDS in Sub-Sahara Africa.
As Laverne explains, “If you give just one person an opportunity and it can have a rippling effect. Isn’t that amazing? That’s really why I wanted to partner with (BAND-AID®)RED, because so often in this world, with so much going on right now, I have felt helpless, like what can we do? I don’t know how to fix this or how to make this better.
Cox’s new collaboration is a sincere effort to help in the international fight against AIDS. With the purchase of the (BAND-AID®)RED at our local drugstores, 20 cents from each sale will cover a full day’s medication for someone living with AIDS in Sub-Sahara Africa.
For Cox, it’s an honor to take part in such a great effort to bring about positive change in the lives of others, and she encourages us all to participate since bandaids are a standard household item we keep in our medicine cabinets.
As Cox explains, “Hopefully, people will go out and buy (BAND-AID®)RED, and we can start a little campaign together on social. I encourage people when they share pics, wearing the BAND-AIDs on social media, using the hashtag #bandtogether, let’s also have a conversation about HIV/AIDS in our lives and the stigma that still exists around it.”
CHECK OUT THE FULL, EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LAVERNE COX, BELOW.