Emmy-nominated actress, award-winning producer and equal rights advocate Laverne Cox visited Penn State Thursday night to discuss her journey of overcoming years of bullying and finding her true self.
“I stand before you today a strong African-American transgender woman,” Cox said to the audience at Eisenhower Auditorium as part of Penn State’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
Cox, known for her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show.
She has also made appearances on Fox’s “The Mindy Project,” Bravo’s “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce” and MTV’s “Faking It.”
Recently, Cox was the host and executive producer of the documentary, “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word,” which highlights the lives of seven transgender youth from across the United States.
As an advocate for equal rights, Cox has traveled around the country spreading her message of empowerment to help individuals move beyond gender expectations.
During her lecture, she spoke of being bullied during adolescence, and how her feelings of attraction toward boys and a love for performing left her feeling shameful and embarrassed.
“I knew in my heart, in my soul, in my spirit I was a girl,” Cox said.
She opened up and spoke of her attempted suicide in sixth grade, and how when she woke up the next day she promised she would do everything to suppress her feelings and make her family proud.
Cox began to embrace her true self when she was accepted into the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She began dressing in girls’ clothing she found at Salvation Army — a wardrobe she called “Salvation Army Couture,” or “Salvation Armani.”
She spoke with a self-assured, almost comical tone of all her obstacles and struggles that led her to where she is today, despite efforts of teachers, therapists and others to stop her from being herself. “Yet ain’t I a woman,” Cox said.
“Success really is the best revenge,” she said.” Remember that.”
Caralyn Reese is a Penn State journalism student.