Powerful Laverne Cox Interview: Self-Love Is The New Black

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox, breakout star of the blockbuster Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black,” is woman with a mission. The Mobile, Alabama native is an actress, writer, artist, and activist. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside and has quickly become an icon across cultures and a change agent. We sat down for a heart-to-heart dialogue at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan where Laverne was set to receive a prestigious Creative Change Award from the Opportunity Agenda. We discussed what it is to truly be free. As it says on Laverne’s site, “you can define what it means to be a man or woman on your own terms.” That’s exactly what Mommy Noire is about, being an accomplished woman on your own terms. Laverne is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show.

Congratulations, Laverne! The Creative Change Award has been won by luminaries from Melissa Harris Perry to Anita Hill.  And tonight we are proudly gathered to honor you and your work.

Thank you for that lovely introduction.  I’m still not used to being honored and being spoken of in the same sentence as MHP and Anita Hill.  I’m really honored to be here to talk about the film that I am producing called “Free CeCe.”

“Free CeCe” is a really courageous and important project.  On June 5th 2011, CeCe McDonald’s life was changed irrevocably.  Can you please give the background on her life and what happened for those who may be unfamiliar?

CeCe McDonald is an African-American transgender woman who defended herself against a racist and transphobic attack.  Many trans women who find themselves in these situations where they experience violence don’t often survive.  CeCe did survive and her gift for survival was prison sentence.  She served 19 months of a 41-month prison sentence in a men’s prison in St. Cloud, Minnesota. “Free CeCe” is a film about Cece’s story.  It’s about criminal justice system, mass incarceration, and the cultural violence against trans women.

CeCe is an amazingly courageous and strong woman who’s been through a lot and through all of that and just to have an amazing sense of hope, love and possibility in the face of unimaginable injustice.

Thank you. Time Magazine called your “Orange is the New Black” character Sophia Burset one of the most influential fictional characters of 2013.  What does knowing CeCe and her story mean to you in playing Sophia?

Before I even heard about “Orange Is the New Black,” I was planning to do a segment for a show called “In the Life.”  It was a PBS show for 25 years about LGBT issues.  We were planning to do segment about CeCe and about the culture of violence against transgender people.

“In the Life” lost its funding so that segment never happened.  But the second I booked “Orange” I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to talk about CeCe’s story since I was playing this incarcerated transgender woman and CeCe McDonald was a transgender woman at the time who was still incarcerated.

So it’s really kind of wonderful that we’re here and that CeCe’s out of prison now and we get to talk about her story and raise awareness about the issues that affect far too many trans women, particularly trans women of color and the justice system and the criminal justice system and being incarcerated.

Well, thank you for portraying Sophia as a noble and human character. How did you, Laverne, learned how to love yourself? Because so many people from any background are struggling with basic self–love.

It is an ongoing process, the process of self-love, and it is something that I have to practice. I used to think that one day I would wake up and if I read enough, if I prayed enough, if I put on enough makeup, that I would wake up and I would have the answer and I would love myself.  Self-love is something I have to practice.

It is something I have to do every day.  It is something I have to be really cognizant in terms of the messages I tell myself about myself. Self-love for me is really about how I take care of myself, really being careful of negative self-talk, who I surround myself with, what situations I put myself in.  It’s about everything I do, really.  It’s about action.

Wonderful advice. My new book is named “The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love” and I’m reclaiming the word ‘bombshell’ to mean a woman who has agency, who believes in herself, mind, body, spirit.  What makes you a bombshell, Laverne?

I love that.  You know, I think it’s really about me learning to be lovingly self-critical. Being critical of myself allows me space to grow. It’s really about me giving myself space to grow but by doing that with love so that I’m not beating myself up or tearing myself apart. I’m doing it with love that Laverne is okay, [as in] “You are exhausted now.  You might do this not imperfectly.” And really giving myself permission to proceed imperfectly in life but know that my imperfections are what make me beautiful and make me a bombshell! --

Catch up on Abiola's Love Class

 Passionate Living Coach Abiola Abrams gives extraordinary women inspiring advice on healthy relationships, self-esteem and getting the love we deserve. You’ve seen her love interventions in magazines from Essence to JET and on shows from MTV’s “Made” to the CW Network’s “Bill Cunningham Show.” Her new advice guide is named “The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love.” Abiola is also the creator of the African Goddess Affirmation Cards. Tweet @abiolaTV.

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    GREAT ARTICLE!!! I’ve heard so much about Orange is the New Black, but I haven’t had time to watch it, but I’m going to definitely make an effort now and I’ll make sure to check out Ms.Cox other projects, as well. Thank you.

    • smittyt

      You must be one of those things yourself you sick freak you.

  • Hypocrite

    If it practiced self love, then it would still be a man.

    • smittyt

      You’re exactly RIGHT!

  • BliggityBlack

    Number one, that is NOT woman. Number two, how can one preach about self love with a head full of Indian remy in a failed attempt to look more white? Yes, self love is what’s “in” but he is going to have to work a lil harder in that department.

    • smittyt


    • •.♥ღHARDCOREღ♥.•

      How is she trying to look white?? Because she has a weave?? Logic FAIL. And yes she IS a woman. You don’t have to like it but you will deal with it.

  • Ayisha

    But how is she practicing Self-Love if you’re a man who changed into a woman? And we’re supposed to take advice from you? Boy bye

    • smittyt


    • •.♥ღHARDCOREღ♥.•

      She’s practicing self love by standing in her truth. It’s way harder to do what you must than to do what’s easy. Just because you didn’t have to work for your puzzy doesn’t make you any better. And hatting on her choices only makes you look bothered.

      • Ayisha

        Girl your whole entire comment is meaningless. Bothered by a tranny? Never. Good Day

        • •.♥ღHARDCOREღ♥.•

          It’s only meaningless because it shows your ignorance and pressed nature in your original post. Good luck with that though.

  • Youknowwhatiitis

    Says the man with breasts and a wig…#IRONY

  • Cherry Coke

    If you don’t have or weren’t born with a uterus and all that comes with it – good & bad – you are not a woman.

    • •.♥ღHARDCOREღ♥.•

      Tell that to woman who’ve had hysterectomies I’m sure they’ed beg to differ. Also there’s a difference between being a woman=gender and being female=sex. She’s a “Trans-woman”. If your going to be a hater at least be a educated one.

      • Cherry Coke

        Women who had hysterectomies were born with a uterus. My mother had uterine cancer so spare tge lecture. Im not being a hater I’m a Bible reader. Changing the sex you were born with is an abomination, that is clear in the scriptures. Just because something is popular in the world doesn’t make it right in God’s eyes. I prefer His view on matters, not imperfect mans. I refuse to accept someone who has changed their sex be a spokeswoman for my gender. “She” is a female as you say not a woman.
        Take care

        • SAS

          But what about the thousands of babies who are born hermaprodites…and the doctor and parents make the decision at birth? See, not always black and white…

          • •.♥ღHARDCOREღ♥.•

            Exactly. Having a child is a gamble you never know what your going to get. If kids can be born with any number of birth defects why is it so hard for folks to believe that you can be born with a body that doesn’t match your brain sex?? There’s plenty research done that proves trans people brains more reflect a sex that differs from their bodies. It doesn’t surprise me the level of ignorance that shows up whenever sex and gender and called into question.

          • Cherry Coke

            Which part of changing your sex to become the other did you not understand?

        • •.♥ღHARDCOREღ♥.•

          And your point?? The fact of the matter is that people are born all kinds of ways with different conditions. You don’t get to tell those people who to be or what they are because it makes you uncomfortable. You have no idea what it’s like being trans so your opinion is just that. Further more, you can shake your bible some where else because no where does it say changing your sex is a abomination. Even if it were one that’s between the man upstairs and that person. What it DOES say is we have free will which allows us to choose our own way. You aren’t GOD so speaking for him is pointless. Your gender?? Sorry to tell you but you don’t hold the patent on womanhood so your acceptance isn’t required. Worry about your own yard before you start pushing your lawnmower next door.

          • Cherry Coke

            We will agree to disagree. You need to re-read your Bible because it clearly says how God views who change gender. We have free will but it is not meant to be abused. People think there are no consequences for actions but there always are.

            Have a nice day.

  • notImpressed

    The bible said that, in the end of days, men would be lovers of self.

    • smittyt

      Women too!

  • smittyt

    Disgusting times a trillion…..YUCK!!!

  • MiaSara

    All these hateful comments while Ms Cox is out here living her dream. I may not understand her lifestyle fully but I wish her nothing but the best. She’s great in OITNB.