Think about how hard it is for anyone to make it as an A-list actor. One in a million, right? Those odds significantly decrease when you’re a woman. Only 43% of women had speaking or major roles in primetime TV in 2013, and that figure drops to 28% in popular feature films.
Now imagine that you’re a woman trying to make it as an actor and you’re a racial minority. As of 2011, racial minorities held only 10.5% of lead roles in mainstream media. As if it could be any harder, what if you’re a woman, a racial minority and not of “traditional” gender orientation. Now think about a person who defies all of these odds and introduce yourself to Laverne Cox.
Best know for her role as Sophia Burset on the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox was told many times that she “wouldn’t be able to have a mainstream career as an actor because she’s trans, because she’s black.” After climbing that mountain, though, she says “it feels really good.”
As the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy and the first transgender person to make the cover of TIME Magazine, Cox has become an incredibly influential and powerful voice for transgender rights. She has navigated the obstacles mentioned above and paved new ground to become a true talent in mainstream media. Cox told Elle Magazine:
“There’s not really been this sort of template for me to do the things that I’m doing, but I figured it out. A lot of it has been, for me, about really being passionate and loving what it is that I do, and constantly lovingly interrogating who I am, and what is my place in the world, and how can I be true to that every moment of the day. It’s by being bold.”
In staying true to who she is at all times, Cox also credits vulnerability as a strength that is often overlooked or downplayed in business. To her, emotions should be embraced as guides.
“I think a really huge part, for me, is to be vulnerable and to be in touch with my feelings, but we’re often told that that’s not something we can do in business, and I think our emotions and being vulnerable give us amazing tools and signals about which direction we really should go in. So I think really listening to our intuition and listening to our gut and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is really key to innovation and creativity.”
Though being transgender makes up a huge part of Cox’s identity, she didn’t “make it” simply because of this. Cox’s serious acting chops and dedication to diversifying her craft has set her apart from the rest. Cox still believes that being the best you can be at what you’re doing still wins out over all the obstacles mentioned above:
“First of all, it’s important to be really good at what you do. I think at the end of the day, you have to show up and have the goods. Personally, I do lots of research. I’m an actor, but I also produce, I do speaking, I’m writing a book, so I do a lot of different things by researching. Being able to work well with others has also been key: most of what I do is very collaborative.”
“Some of the challenges are really about women working well with each other, learning to take direction, and asking for help, too.”
As someone who has had to face types of adversity most of us will never know, we can learn a great deal from Laverne Cox:
Be Yourself. BE BOLD.
You’re your best “you” when you’re just being you, and it take a lot less effort that could be spent making your dreams a reality.
Emotions are okay. Trust your gut. Both will help guide you down your correct path.
BE THE BEST.
Neither of the first two things replaces being really good at what you do and working hard to get there.
For more of Cox’s interview with Elle, click here.
Image Credit: LaverneCox.com