Always flawless in eloquence and image, actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox appeared alongside fashion expert Joe Zee on the Beautycon Festival 2017 main stage on over the weekend. The festival’s message, which displayed prominently on the screen behind, was a wondrous blast of inclusion and freedom: “We Welcome All Races, All Genders, All Countries Of Origin, All Sexual Orientations, All Religions, All Glamazons, All Natural Beauties, All Unicorns.”
Throughout the interview, the Orange Is The New Black star regaled the audience with her inspiring life story.
“When I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, I never wanted to fit in; I never wanted to be like everybody else,” said Cox. She listed Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and opera singer Leontyne Price as role models.
“I wanted to be a performer and be on television. People in my hometown made fun of me and I got bullied, but I knew that I was here for something bigger than that. So fitting in didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to stand out because that meant I’d be able to attract people’s attention… I learned a long time ago that I wasn’t going to get anywhere trying to be something I’m not. I’m obviously a trans person. I have a deep voice, wide shoulders, big hands and big feet. I’m not beautiful despite of those things; I’m beautiful because of those things… If you can empower those parts of yourself that people make fun of, no one can touch you.”
The electrifying Cox segued from beauty into a discussion on the hard work ahead for transgender rights, especially after President Trump’s cunning tweet—to distract from his self-made chaos—proclaiming a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. Brains certainly go with this beauty, as Cox put in an informed plug for the LGBT Data Inclusion Act, which would expand census and other federal surveys that cull demographic data to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, to better be counted.
“We’re in survival mode now, because so many basic rights we’ve fought for, for a really long time, are being threatened,” said Cox. “Trans people are being murdered disproportionately to other populations. I could go on and on. The shift that’s happened in the past few years is that trans people are more visible; because of social media, more of our voices are elevated, so we’re able to talk back in a way that we have not been able to before… But we need more allies coming on board to say these lives matter.”
Since the annual event is called Beautycon, Zee asked the 45-year-old (NO WAY!) about her favorite moments of beauty.
“Well, it takes a village for me,” Cox said, giving credit to hair stylist Ursula Stephen, make-up artist Deja Smith and fashion stylist Christina Pacelli. She went on to mention attending the 2016 Billboard Awards in a Michael Costello mermaid dress, her glossy hair framing smoldering eyes and berry lips. Another moment she highlighted was the teal halter-neck gown by Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein Collection worn at the 2015 Emmy Awards, with wavy hair and yellow shoes that matched her nail polish.
“Sometimes when I wake up and look into the eyes of the person I love, and I don’t have any makeup on, that’s a beauty moment, too, because it’s about connecting to someone who loves me and cares about me and it’s not about makeup or how I look,” Cox said, proving her beauty runs very deep.