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Laverne Cox: Let your passion move you to action

The actress spoke to Know Your Value at the Global Citizen Festival about what drives her sense of purpose and gave advice to those struggling with self-acceptance.
Image: Laverne Cox speaks at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 28, 2019.
Laverne Cox speaks at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 28, 2019.Theo Wargo / Getty Images for Global Citizen

Emmy-winning actress and producer Laverne Cox is bursting with confidence today—but she struggled to believe in herself for years, until she found a sense of purpose through acting.

Cox, who is best known for her role on “Orange is the New Black,” became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Prime time Emmy acting award in 2014.

“I often get asked, how do I build confidence, how do I believe in myself?” Cox said in an interview with Know Your Value millennial contributor Daniela Pierre-Bravo. “And for many years, I did not believe in myself. I didn’t think that it was possible.”

But Cox’s longtime “passion” for the craft of acting and “the power of storytelling to change lives” inspired her to keep going. “The passion is what kept me training, going to auditions. So if you love something, you find a way to do it.”

Cox made the comments at Global Citizen Festival, an annual event featuring musicians and activists encouraging people to act to end extreme poverty by 2030. More than 60,000 people swarmed New York City’s Central Park to attend the 2019 event, and the group’s mission is to build a community of 100 million engaged citizens who tackle poverty-linked issues including the plight of girls and women around the globe, food and hunger, water and sanitation, health, education and more.

Pierre-Bravo asked Cox to share “tips you have for young women who want to have that passion and act on it, but still feel they’re being held back.”

“When I’m in my purpose, then even if I might not have the confidence, then I can allow the energy of a higher power, a greater energy, to enter me and work through me,” Cox said. “When we are of service, the universe takes care of all of it.”

Pierre-Bravo also asked Cox about National Coming Out Day on October 11, noting “so many people are still in the shadows, repressing who they are.”

“The fear—it’s often in our heads,” Cox said. “There’s always another layer of something I have to embrace abut myself. Most recently it’s been my age.”

She relayed a story about breaking her foot earlier this year and how she had to give her ID to her boyfriend to pick up medication for her. She asked him not to look at the age; he did look, though, and said Cox was as old as he figured she was.

“It was like, the anxiety was mine. No one else cared,” Cox said. “Sometimes people will care but really the shame we internalize about things is our own.”

Letting go of that shame and fear is key to living a full life, she added.

“How freeing is it to just be in the truth of who you are?” Cox said. “Most of us get to a point where we can no longer lie to ourselves about ourselves. And it is just the ultimate freedom to be able to say this is who I am…you can step into the reason you’re on this planet.”

Global Citizen hopes to inspire people to make activism part of their “reason.” The group says millions of Global Citizens around the world have taken 14 million actions—like writing emails, creating petitions and calling world leaders—to solve these challenges, helping to impact more than 650 million people’s lives.

The annual festival is ticketed but free, inspiring people to take action through Global Citizen’s platform to earn tickets. This year’s musical lineup included Queen, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, OneRepublic, H.E.R., Carole King and other special guests, and MSNBC and Comcast were two of the festival’s media partners.

Even bigger plans are slated for next year, when Global Citizen will launch its biggest-ever campaign through “Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream,” a 10-hour concert to be held in September 2020 on five continents. Twin festivals will be broadcast live from New York City and Lagos, Nigeria, with satellite events held in as-yet-unannounced cities in Latin America, Europe and Asia.

The 2020 campaign, which marks the final decade before Global Citizen’s 2030 goal, will aim to secure an additional $350 billion in global commitments annually. According to the group, experts say that is the figure needed to provide citizens in 59 of the poorest nations with the basic necessities to live healthy and dignified lives.

To take action and be a part of the Global Citizen community, join here.