EXCLUSIVE: Laverne Cox On A History-Making Supreme Court Case, Danielle Brooks & Billie Porter

The Emmy-nominated actress is using her platform to discuss LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Laverne Cox has been having the best September ever—walking the Savage X Fenty runway, showing out at the 71st Primetime Emmys, hitting the Global Citizens Festival—but perhaps her most vocal affair was leading a discussion around brand inclusion during Advertising Week (Sept. 23-26) in New York. During the discussion with CMO of Diageo Beer Company and Head of Smirnoff North America, Jay Sethi on why it’s important to represent the LGBTQIA+ community in brand campaigns, Laverne not only shared a snippet of a saucy new holiday campaign she has coming up with the spirits company, but she schooled the audience on a Supreme Court case approaching that has the ability to make history.

As we head into October, LGBTQ+ History month and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, Laverne has no plans of slowing down. She made that clear when she shared over the weekend (Sept. 29) that she is a “single lady” and yes gentlemen, you can slide into her DMs, but for now she caught BET up on all things Laverne at Advertising Week 2019.

BET: What does a brand being truly inclusive mean to you?

Laverne Cox: For me it's about representing the all the potential consumers out there which Smirnoff does a great job of globally. But I think it means having people of color. I think it means having LGBTQ+ people. I think it means having people with disabilities. I think it means [including] people who are size zero or size four like Rihanna just did in the Savage X Fenty show, and not just in front of the cameras but in decision making process as well.

And I think your product is going to be that much better if everyone is at the table and making decisions. I mean problematic things could happen when you don't have diverse people behind the scenes. You can circumvent all that. I think diversity is better. I think it makes our culture richer. I think it makes our lives richer to have different people in our lives and to have that reflect in their media.

(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Smirnoff)

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Smirnoff

(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Smirnoff)

B: Speaking about being inclusion, Orange Is The New Black wasn’t included in the Emmys tribute to shows that came to an end this year which your costar Danielle Brooks made sure to point out. What are your thoughts around that?

LC: What I’m wondering is maybe it’s because Orange is eligible next year. Yes, the show ended this year, but in terms of committee eligibility, we are also eligible next year because the season came out afterwards. That's the only thing I can imagine why we weren't included. I didn't see that Danny said something about that. I love Danielle. She's my girl. She's awesome. She's incredible.

B: So hopefully you guys get that shout out next time.

LC: Yes. I mean, and Danielle needs an Emmy nomination too. Like I don't know what's going on. [laughs]

BET: I saw your IG post about the Aimee Stephen's Supreme Court case set for Oct. 8 being the first case involving trans civil rights, can you tell us about the importance and impact this will have on your community?

LC: Yes, Aimee Stephens is one of three plaintiffs in the case. So basically, the Supreme Court will be deciding whether or not Title VII, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex, covers the LGBTQ+ community too. Lower courts are divided, but most lower courts have decided that Title VII does cover the LGBTQ+ community. That if you fire someone from their job for being trans that is a violation of Title VII. It seems obvious, you're discriminating against them on the basis of sex. But when you fire someone for being gay or lesbian, that's about sex stereotypes. The stereotype is that if you are male, you should be in a relationship with someone female and that stereotype, and vice versa.

That's also a violation of Title VII. So that has huge implications for the LGBTQ+ community, but also for people who are not gay, lesbian, or trans because the administration wants to basically say that it's okay to fire someone based on sex stereotypes. So if you're not “woman enough” for your employee, let’s they say you think you’re too masculine, right? There was a case Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins in the late eighties, where a woman was denied a promotion cause her employer at Price Waterhouse said that she was too masculine, she sued and won. And that precedent is what the LGBTQ+ community has been using around employment discrimination protections around sex stereotypes.

So what this administration wants to say is that it is okay to fire someone if they're not manly enough if they're male or if you’re not woman enough if they're female. And that should not be legal in this country. If we lose that could have horrible implications for not just the LGBTQ+ community, but for everyone and could be potentially be extended to health care, housing, etc. So it’s hugely important. October 8, there's going to be a rally outside the Supreme Court. I'll be there. People should be talking about this. People should be sharing on social media and aware that it's not just LGBTQ rights that are on the line. It's all of our rights.

B: You've become an icon in the trans community, especially for Black trans women. What do you feel is your responsibility to that community?

LC: I would say to be myself. I think first and foremost I have to be myself. But then also, with all of this now privilege that I have, I have a responsibility to listen even more to my communities and whenever possible to lift up the voices and the stories of those communities. And yeah, just speak up and to speak out and use my platform, which I try to do when I can. But I'm also trying to balance that with building a career as an actress and partnering with amazing brands like Smirnoff.

I've had so much fun working with them on Welcome To The Fun% campaign, the PRIDE campaign and now the holiday campaign. I love that I have a continuing partnership with them. I've had so much fun shooting the spots that we've done together and being creative behind the scenes. I'm not just an actress that they put in and say do this. They want to hear my feedback.

B: You shared a teaser of your cheeky holiday campaign with Smirnoff during your session at Advertising Week. Can you tell us anything about what to expect?

LC: All I can say, cause I don't want to give it away fully, is that it was so much fun. Just shoot, I've consistently had a blast working with Smirnoff and it's like a little bit of fantasy fulfillment. I think it's fierce and amazing and awesome and I hope you will too.

B: I have to ask since Billy Porter is a dear friend of yours, what was your reaction to him taking home his first Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series?

LC: I have known Billy for years. I don’t even remember when I met Billy. We've been New Yorkers forever. He used to date a friend of mine. And just seeing the world see what I've known for a very long time, that Billy is a singular talent who is a force of nature.

I'm thinking about the year that Billy's had, he's now a fashion icon. He's one-win shy of an EGOT. He’s now got a Grammy, a Tony and the Emmy. He just needs an Oscar girl and he'll have the EGOT. It's so amazing and I’m just so happy for him and proud and it just couldn't happen to a better person.

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