laverne cox gives us life advice

Photos by Felisha Tolentino sweater by celine (available at barney's, beverly hills), shorts by citizens of humanity, earrings worn throughout by karine sultan, sunglasses by dita, studded jacket the seat by heidi slimane (available at barney's, beverly

+ talks purses and patriarchy

Laverne Cox is the kind of person who, upon meeting you, immediately finds something to compliment. The first time I talk to her, at the GLAAD Awards, it’s my hair. For this interview, at the Library at the NoMad Hotel, an old-timey bar near her home in Midtown, Manhattan, it’s my rings. Taking off her huge sunglasses, she looks me up and down, nods in approval, and smiles. “Real cute,” she says, gesturing to my jewelry while I blush fiercely. Her kindness is constant: From her activism to her one-on-one interactions, she’s trying to make other people feel good. 

Cox has been back in New York for less than 24 hours after a weeklong trip to Paris—her first time there—and her eyes light up while describing how no one knew who she was. “I can’t go three blocks in New York without getting recognized anymore,” she says. “In Paris I actually went to Zara and tried on clothes. I felt so normal.” 

One of the most noteworthy souvenirs from her trip was a beautiful Fendi tote, which seems to represent so much more than just a new purse. On her walk here, for example, a man called out, “That’s a dude!” She responded with a swift “fuck you,” she says, re-enacting the way she tossed her head back and flashed her Fendi like a shield. Despite her dismissal of the comment, it’s clear she’s distressed: Later, she rests her head on the bag with tears running down her face while describing how upset her twin brother gets when people are hateful toward her. This luxury gift she’s bought herself—after worrying about paying rent for much of her adulthood—symbolizes her success, femininity, and self-preservation. 

The 31-year-old’s rise to fame started just two years ago with the debut of Orange Is the New Black. The popularity of the Netflix women’s prison dramedy, one of a handful of really good mainstream shows with well-written LGBTQ characters, marked a huge cultural shift. Here was a show with a ton of queer people that the media (and not just the lesbian blogs I read) was talking about and obsessing over.

On the show, Cox plays Sophia Burset, a black trans woman, with humor and sensitivity. Because of this, she’s become one of OITNB’s biggest breakout stars—and she’s used her newfound notoriety to shake up how much of America treats trans people. She was the first openly trans person on the cover of Time and was the first black trans person to produce and star in a TV show (VH1’s TRANSform Me). This month, she plays Deathy alongside Lily Tomlin in Grandma, a poignant story of women—gay, straight, and trans—across three generations. 

Her many inspiring projects aside, it’s Cox’s commitment to being visible and vocal that’s turned her into an activist icon. Through simple things like hashtagging her selfies with #TransIsBeautiful, she’s helping make the world a safer place for other trans people. 

“OK, let’s do this,” says Cox, slinging the Fendi on the couch between us, adjusting her sweater leggings, and leaning forward, her eyes twinkling with a friendly intensity. 

Click through the gallery to read the entire story.

photographer: felisha tolentino 
stylist: sean knight

hair: ryan randall at the only agency using r+co.
makeup: deja marie smith for dd-pro using cecile.
manicurist: brittni rae at nailing hollywood using the system by formula x in curiosity.
jacket by citizens of humanity, top by saint laurent by hedi slimane (available at barney's, beverly hills), shorts by a gold e, sunglasses by dita.

When I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, I thought I wanted to be a full-time activist, but one of my mentors warned of the high likelihood of burnout. How do you manage to combine activism with your career and stay passionate about both?

Ultimately, I’m a storyteller—imagining different ways to tell transgender stories. I’m really interested in changing the ways in which we talk with and about transgender people, not only in personal conversation but also how we cover those stories in the media. What I really have to prioritize is self-care, something as basic as getting sleep. I’ve had to say no to a lot of things. There’s a cost for me emotionally when I speak up about things. I’m always a target because I’m a public figure, and I’m not doing activism in obscurity. I have to get myself ready for the bullets. 

There’s this idea that feminine beauty belongs to young, straight, white cis-women of a certain body type. Do LGBTQ people need to reclaim what it means, or should we disrupt it entirely?

Years ago I wanted to have the kind of cosmetic facial feminization surgery that Caitlyn [Jenner] has made popular in terms of people’s understanding. But I didn’t have the money to do it. I’m so blessed and grateful that I didn’t because I would look completely different. I’ve had to learn to love and accept all those things about me that make me distinctly trans: my broad shoulders, my big hands and feet, my deep voice. It’s so deeply ingrained in this culture, though. When Caitlyn’s Vanity Fair cover came out, the language that people were using was deeply misogynist—she looked beautiful according to very specific standards, and that’s deeply problematic.

I found the focus on her appearance to be upsetting.

So many people on my social media pages say, “You’re gorgeous,” and who doesn’t like hearing that? But it made me think: Are people saying I’m beautiful for a trans person? Are they saying I’m beautiful because they couldn’t tell I’m trans? I mean, you can find blogs where people are like, “Laverne Cox is drop-dead gorgeous,” and there are other blogs saying I have “linebacker proportions.” 

jacket by saint laurent by heidi slimane (available at barney's beverly hills), sunglasses by dita.

Transparent‘s Jeffrey Tambor told me he thinks the gender binary won’t be a thing within the next two generations, which sounded really ambitious.

Two generations! That would be nice. But black people are still being murdered. We had the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago, and black people are still being murdered with impunity by the police.

So what can we do?

Hearts and minds have to change. We have hate crime legislation, but if that dude out there who called me a dude wants to kill me, he’s going to do it. So much of this is about changing patriarchy. Patriarchy is linked to homophobia and transphobia, and in the patriarchal imagination they’re inextricably linked; there’s a binary that separates men and women. To dismantle patriarchal thinking, one has to critically interrogate how they’ve internalized it. 

I feel like the people who most need to change their thinking about patriarchy have no awareness that that’s what needs to happen.

Patriarchy is killing men. It’s killing men of all races actually. I’ve dated so many straight men who would never claim me publicly, and I was witnessing them be torn because they thought everybody’s idea of them as men would change 
and that would be just so devastating 
for them. 

What do you do to stay positive? 

Well, I just had a really good time in Paris, even just allowing myself to splurge on this handbag—though I think it’s important for me to be critical of this privilege as well. There are a lot of people out there who are struggling. But I can’t lift someone else up if I don’t take care of myself, too. 

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

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