Women’s magazines get a lot of flak for doing a lot of wrong. But sometimes when they do right, they do so right. Which is what happened this week when Allure released its annual Nudes issue. Once a year, the mag takes shots of famous women in the buff, accompanied by quotes about their body image and what makes them confident and beautiful. It’s always a feel-good moment of honesty and celebration of the many ways a woman can look — from skinny to curvy to plus-sized, depending on the celebs that were shot that issue.
This year, Allure is featuring Laverne Cox. The Orange Is the New Black star is laying across a disheveled bed, holding her head in her hand and completely nude. It is sensual, not gratuitous. Beautiful, not ostentatious. Yet, for all of the photograph’s subtlety, it is one of the most groundbreaking images to be seen for some time in a publication because when (if ever) do beauty magazines — or any magazines, for that matter — dedicate space to artful nudes of transgender women?
Cox’s story is not new to the public, which has been following her since the debut of Netflix’s OITNB. Fans know that after growing up in Mobile, Ala., and being bullied throughout childhood, she moved to New York, came out as transgender and started working as an actress. But in Allure, we learn a few more things. We learn that Cox initially turned down the mag’s request to appear nude — not once, but twice. Then, the 30-year-old actress thought of how much more would be accomplished than simply taking off her clothes. “I'm a Black transgender woman. I felt this could be really powerful for the communities that I represent,” she told Allure. “Black women are not often told that we're beautiful unless we align with certain standards. Trans women certainly are not told we're beautiful. Seeing a Black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about herself might be inspiring to some other folks.”
With the issue hitting newsstands less than a week after Bruce Jenner’s interview about being transgender, we have also learned one other thing. That the media — which often puts people and sexuality and gender into dizzyingly narrow boxes — is finally letting more stories out. Beyond searching for ratings or sales, ABC and Allure are searching for truths and narratives that can enlighten all of us, while liberating some from having to live or project a lie.
We also learned one other thing from Cox’s appearance in Allure. And it’s a sentiment that everyone should memorize, internalize and apply to every single day of their life. “There's beauty in the things we think are imperfect. That sounds very cliché, but it's true," she said. So, we learned that Cox is a groundbreaker with something to teach every woman who has ever fretted in front of a mirror…in short, all of us.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Norman Jean Roy/Allure)
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