Laverne Cox woke up Thursday morning to discover some big news: She had become the first openly transgender woman to ever be nominated for an Emmy award.
Cox plays transgender inmate Sophia Burset on the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black, and ever since the show’s premiere she has been lauded in the media for her performance.
“Oh, my God, it’s going to take me awhile to get used to saying ‘Emmy-nominated actress,'” Cox said in a phone call from New York, where the series is currently in production for its third season. “I only quit my restaurant job a year ago, so let me tell you, this is pretty good.”
The actress has long been a public voice for the transgender community. It started with an appearance on VH1’s I Want to Work for Diddy in 2008, where Cox became the first African-American transgender woman to appear on a reality competition show. That led to Cox producing and starring in the makeover show TRANSform Me for VH1, making her the first African-American trans woman to produce and star in her own TV show. While these efforts spurred various bit parts and public appearance gigs, being cast in Orange made the 30 year old more of a household name. This year alone saw Cox placed on the cover of Time magazine in an issue covering the transgender community in America, and she is on the current cover of The Advocate.
While this does show progress for transgender representation in the media, it doesn’t mean these people are experiencing the same kind of successes seen by other members of the gay and lesbian community; indeed, life can be quite dangerous for trans-people around the world.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about this,” Cox said of her Emmy nomination to the Los Angeles Times. “I was on the cover of Time magazine in June and, that same month, four trans women of color were murdered in the United States. So just because I got an Emmy nomination doesn’t mean the lives of trans people aren’t in peril every day.
“It’s so weird. Part of me wonders why it’s me because there’s so many amazingly talented, smart, beautiful trans actors out there. It’s weird that it’s me having the big moment right now. There are people out there who deserve it as much and I’d like to send them a lot of love today.”