Why Laverne Cox Wants Accomplices Over Allies in the Fight for Trans Rights

Laverne Cox opens up about being her own superhero, her new mystery man, and what she hopes to bring to her new gig as the face of E!'s Live from the Red Carpet.

By Billy Nilles, Spencer Lubitz Jun 08, 2021 3:00 PMTags
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Laverne Cox is officially a superhero.

Not that the actress, host of The Laverne Cox Show podcast and new face of E!'s red carpet coverage hasn't figuratively been saving the day since her arrival on the scene in Orange Is the New Black. But now, thanks to a new campaign with SodaStream, she's a literal caped crusader too.

Cox teamed up with the the at-home soda-maker brand for their Pride campaign, featuring limited edition rainbow machines, after she was made an offer she couldn't refuse. 

"When SodaStream reached out saying that they wanted to collaborate and make me an animated superhero, I was like, 'I'm intrigued,'" she told E! News. "It's about celebrating Pride, it's about telling our own stories."

In the spot, a rainbow-caped Cox flies about the country as she helps usher in a new era of trans acceptance. "For me, whenever I see the commercial, I think about how we can become superheroes in our own lives," she said. "There's something kind of depressing, but also kind of uplifting, about saving ourselves. That we have to be the ones to save ourselves, that we can be the ones that we're looking for in the world. And I just love that message. I love that." 

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Of course, when you get the chance to speak with a trailblazing superhero, you make sure it doesn't end there. From her message for the younger generation to her gushing over her new mystery man, we talked about it all. Read on for our full conversation!

Courtesy SodaStream

E! News: You've been responsible for so many firsts in the industry. As you look back on all of your accomplishments, is there one so far that you are the most proud of?

Laverne Cox: Today I am most proud of still being Laverne through all of the showbiz and all the wonderful moments and challenging moments I've had in my life. That I'm still myself, that I'm committed to becoming even more myself, that I'm really proud that I do business in a way that I'm kind to the people I work with. And that I haven't had to sort of step on anyone, or be mean to anyone, to get where I am. And so I'm just proud. I'm most proud that I've been able to maintain my authenticity, integrity and to thrive.

E! News: What is your message to future generations of queer people who are coming of age right now and look up to you? How do you instill hope in these future generations?

LC: When I was a kid, I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and I had a lot of dreams and grew up working class with a single mom. We didn't have a lot of money. Dealing with internalized racism, internalized transphobia, being a really femme kid and being bullied relentlessly because of it, and I have been able to live out my dreams. It took a while, you know? In the commercial they say, you know, the world had to catch up, and in some ways the world has caught up, in other ways, it still hasn't.

What I would like to tell everyone is that we are on God's time, not our time, that we have to be on our journey, and the work is to love ourselves more. The work is to become more, much more true to ourselves, to love ourselves, to love each other and to proceed with passion. I believe that we're all here for a reason, that there is something for each and every one of us, and that the universe has plans for us. Our work is to get rid of all the clutter and all the noise to connect with that purpose. And when we connect with it, it really is beautifully freeing and amazing. We all are divine. And it's really about tapping into that divine energy within each of us.

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E! News: You mentioned growing up and I'm wondering, looking at your career and how successful you are today, what would you tell your younger self? What advice would you give?

LC: Today, I would say you're on the right path. Everything that you are passionate about, even though it seems to not make any sense right now, it all will pay off. Without a test, there's no testimony—and you're being tested. You're going to be tested for a very long time, but your testimony will be powerful. Your testimony will affect people all over the world and inspire other folks to endure, to be resilient and to never give up.

Courtesy SodaStream

E! News: You have been a very vocal fan of Pose. With the show ending this week, I'm wondering what, in your opinion, has been the show's impact on the trans community. What it has meant having a show like this on the air for everyone to see? 

LC: I mean, it's so complicated. In the short term, I think for me, it's about all the talent on screen. I felt this way when it premiered, you know, three or four years ago, and I feel that way now. For many years, people in Hollywood would say there are no trans actors to play the roles. And now, I think we can't say that. There's so much talent on the show. I'm just blown away by how good everyone is. My girlfriend, Mj Rodriguez, is just a force of nature. Angelica [Ross,] Hailie [Sahar,] Indya [Moore,] Dominique [Jackson,] they're all just these incredible forces of talent and beauty. I just know they'll have long, incredible careers and I'm just so excited for them.

I was just thinking about how we need fantasies, how we need to be able to see a trans woman being loved for who she is. We need to see that so that we can understand that it's possible. That we can begin to envision it and manifest it in our own lives and know that it's possible to have. Pose gives us a blueprint of what is possible. And I want trans people all over the world to bring that possibility into our lives and manifest it. 

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E! News:  It is obvious from some of your videos that Laverne is in love. So will the world ever get to meet this new man? Or is he just for your eyes only? 

LC: I do kind of want to keep him to myself. [Laughs] My man is fine, like really fine. Like, he's freaking gorgeous. You know, he wants to be private and I—my last relationship was kind of public, and I don't know. We're having such a good time just because, and I don't want to bring the outside world into it right now. I'm not sure if I ever will want to. When you go public with a relationship, people chime in and have an opinion—and I don't give an eff about people's opinion. I'm happy and in love, and we're just doing our thing. We're building our foundation now and were just having a good time. And that's for us, right now. And so that's what it is.

Courtesy SodaStream

E! News: I have so much respect for that. How can everyone be better LGBTQ+ allies in today's world? 

LC: Well, I prefer the term accomplices to allies. When I think about it being an accomplice, I think, What is the work we're all doing in our lives, right? We've all internalized homophobia or transphobia or racism. What are we doing on a daily basis to educate ourselves through critical consciousness? How are we standing up for LGBTQ+ plus folks, not only when we're in the room or in the vicinity, but when we're not. I think those are the questions I would encourage folks to ask themselves about being a better accomplice or ally.

There are a number of bills, some of which have been signed into law, targeting transgender children right now. An Arkansas bill would take gender affirming health care away from children. In that state, the law is set to go into effect in July. What are we doing about that? I know the ACLU is suing. I know people have called legislators and called governors, so we have to keep that energy going.

I think the biggest thing is about the humanity of trans people, the humanity of LGBTQI+ folks. There's so much misinformation about who we are right now. There is a lot of media narratives that I find are dehumanizing, that want to focus on transition and bodies and whatnot. And for me, I'm always about celebrating the humanity of trans people, our lived experiences, our stories from our perspectives.  Elevating those stories as much as possible is crucial right now because we need to have those stories out there so that folks continue to connect with the humanity of trans people and not the misinformation and propaganda about who we are.

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E! News: Can you remember the first time you saw yourself reflected in entertainment in a way that filled you with pride?

LC: You know, I've mentioned this moment many times. It didn't happen until 2007, when Candis Cayne played Carmelita on Dirty Sexy Money. It was the first time I felt my story as a trans person was being told in a way that I felt that I connected with and saw some kind of representation of who I was on television. I think I was in my mid-30s when that came out. So that was a long time to wait. I love that young people don't have to wait that long now, but there are diverse representations that hopefully they will connect with and see themselves in.

E! News: We're so excited that you've joined the E! family. Is there something that you are most looking forward to doing in your new role?

LC: I just want to be myself. I just want to become more myself. I want to have fun. I've always had fun at E! over the years, just being interviewed. I co-hosted the countdown show for Emmys last year and had a ball. I want to have fun. I want to be myself and I want to bring all of who I am to this job. Yes, there's the glamour and all of the red carpet stuff. But I like to talk about a lot of issues that are going on in the world, and do it in a way that's fun and informative and enlightening. I'm hoping to bring those elements of who I am to my new job at E!, and to have a lot of fun. And hopefully have some iconic red carpet moments.

The Laverne Cox Show is available wherever you listen to podcasts.

(This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)