Actor, activist to speak at Graduate College of Social Work event.
By Lourdes Zavaleta
Laverne Cox has come a long way since her last appearance in Houston, when she headlined the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in 2014.
“I am so blessed in my life that I get to tell stories through my work as an actor, through my work as a producer, and as an advocate for the issues that mean so much to me,” Cox said in 2016, after becoming the first trans honoree at Variety’s Power of Women event.
Cox will keynote the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work’s (GCSW) Living the Vision 2018 Scholarship Luncheon at the Post Oak Hotel on April 11. Organizers of the second annual gala, which raises funds to provide scholarships for GCSW students by bringing nationally recognized speakers to Houston, recruited Cox because she embodies the college’s mission of achieving social, racial, economic, and political justice, according to spokeswoman Connease Warren.
“Through a number of her philanthropic and activist efforts, Laverne has shined light on several social-justice issues, especially within the transgender community,” Warren says. “Since she puts these issues at the forefront of her work, we felt that she was a great candidate to showcase Living the Vision.”
In 2008, Cox became the first trans woman to appear on an American reality TV program, VH1’s I Wanna Work for Diddy, for which she won a GLAAD Media Award. Two years later, she worked with the network again for TRANSform Me, a makeover series that made her the first black trans person to produce and star in her own television show.
When Netflix debuted Orange Is the New Black in 2013, Cox became the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream television show. She also became the first openly trans person nominated for an Emmy Award for her role as Sophia Burset, a trans woman who was sent to prison for credit-card fraud in 2014.
Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word, a documentary produced and narrated exclusively by Cox, premiered on MTV and Logo in 2014 and won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2015.
In 2017, Cox began her role as trans attorney Cameron With on CBS’s Doubt. She also hosts Glam Masters, Lifetime’s new beauty-competition series that premiered in February. Also in February, Cox expanded her media presence beyond television with the release of her debut music video, “Beat for the Gods.”
At the Houston luncheon, Cox will speak about her social-justice efforts and present awards to Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and Karen Winston.
Turner will receive the Spirit of Social Work Award, which honors non-social workers who display the values of social work, for his actions during Hurricane Harvey. Winston, a GCSW alumnae who has been a social-work clinician in Houston for 20 years, will be honored with the Social Worker of the Year Award for her work at the George R. Brown Convention Center during Harvey.
Proceeds from the annual luncheon represent GCSW’s largest source of unrestricted scholarship funds, so donors can help make UH’s social-work degrees more affordable by purchasing tickets. Prices range from $250 for a single seat to $50,000 for two tables seating 20 and a VIP meet-and-greet with Cox for six guests.
What: Living the Vision with Laverne Cox
When: 1:30 p.m. on April 11
Where: The Post Oak Hotel, 1600 West Loop South
This article appears in the April 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.