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Tell Me More: Laverne Cox

Transgender actress Laverne Cox shares her thoughts on standing up for what you believe in and the power of being “lovingly critical.”
Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox attends ELLE's Women in Television Celebration on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles.Jordan Strauss / Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Laverne Cox has won critics' praise (and loads of fans) with her performance in “Orange is the New Black,” the buzzy Netflix original series based on a memoir by Piper Kerman that chronicles life inside a women’s prison. (The series returns in June.) Cox’s character on the show, Sophia Burset, is an incarcerated transgender woman, and Laverne is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream, scripted show.

It’s one of many firsts in a career in which the award-winning actress has constantly broken new ground. And when she’s not wowing audiences with her acting, she’s informing and inspiring them as a speaker and as an advocate for the trans community. Cox is now working on her forthcoming memoir and the documentary “Free CeCe,” which tells the story of Cece McDonald, a transgender woman convicted of second-degree manslaughter and incarcerated in a men’s prison after allegedly defending herself during a racist, transphobic attack.

Here, Cox shares her thoughts on the remarkable qualities of men, the complexities of power, and one aspect of her dark side.

What does honesty mean to you?

Honesty for me is about daring to tell the truth even when the truth isn't popular. It's also for me about showing up, being present and allowing myself to be seen.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the capacity to put myself in someone else's shoes, to feel with someone as opposed to sympathy, feeling for someone.

What does integrity mean to you?

Integrity is about standing up for what I believe, having my actions aligned and integrated with my beliefs.

What qualities does a remarkable man possess?

They are often what I find remarkable in women as well. But as a woman who dates men, I love it when a man is comfortable being vulnerable. I believe remarkable folks of all genders stand up for what they believe. I love it when men embrace feminist ideals and are lovingly critical of their own privilege. I love the phrase "lovingly critical."

What qualities does a remarkable woman possess?

The women who inspire me are smart, highly motivated and are committed to remaining teachable and always striving to get better at what they do.

What is power?

Power is a complicated word and concept for me. So often those in power can become corrupt. But I don't believe power has to be corrupt. As an individual, I feel powerful when I am in full ownership of my body, my story, and my emotions: the good the bad and the ugly.

What is success?

Success for me is getting to do what I love and believe in with tons of gratitude for the present moment, as well as for the past which got me here.

Describe one aspect of your dark side.

I think my dark side is really compulsive. I can sit down and eat several bags of potato chips or popcorn in one sitting. The dark side for me is the loss of impulse control and that's deeply scary for me.

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