Orange Is the New Black star and transgender activist Laverne Cox will be given the prestigious Stephen F. Kolzak Award at the 2014 GLAAD Media Awards held in Los Angeles on April 12. GLAAD, founded in 1985, is a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization that aims at amplifying the voices of LGBT people in the media.
Cox, who will be given the award by newly out actress Ellen Page, was chosen for her fierce dedication in fighting for transgender equality and rights.
"Laverne Cox has reshaped the way Americans see transgender people and raised the bar in diverse representations of the LGBT community in entertainment," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a press release.
Ellis added, "She is not only a talented actress, but a truly transformational leader in the LGBT equality movement. Through her tireless commitment to building understanding and acceptance through education and advocacy, Laverne is moving equality forward both on and off the screen."
While Cox isn’t new to television (she was on MTV’s I Want to Work for Diddy and VH1’s TRANSform Me), it’s her portrayal of transgender convict Sophia Burset that has garnered critical acclaim and catapulted her into the spotlight. Cox plays that role with utter humanity, dignity and grace, all while educating the public about the struggles that transgender Black women face in an unwelcoming and transphobic world. She even impressed editors at Time magazine, which ranked Sophia number four on their Most Influential Fictional Characters of 2013 list.
In addition to season two of OITNB and an upcoming memoir, Cox is producing a feature-length documentary on CeCe McDonald, a Black transgender woman from Minnesota who was unfairly sentenced to 41 months in prison for killing a man who was attacking her. The documentary, Free CeCe, documents McDonald’s time in prison, her release this past January and the culture of violence that trans women face.
Despite Cox’s rise to success, she refuses to let it get to her head. “I am so grateful for all of this and I try to enjoy the attention as much as I can. But staying grounded is a process because all of this can be really overwhelming,“ she told Ebony.com last summer.
She added, “My therapist reminds me to not let the praise define me, because if I do, I’ll take the negative things that people say and allow that to define me as well. If I touch just one person, then I have done something good."
Learn more about Cox’s upcoming documentary, Free CeCe, here.
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(Photo: Rommel Demano/Getty Images)