Name at birth: Roderick Leverne CoxLaverne Cox is an Emmy-nominated actress and a transgender advocate -- “the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show,” as her official bio puts it. That TV show is the dramatic comedy Orange Is the New Black, in which Cox plays the recurring role of Sophia Burset, a beautiful transgender prisoner in a women’s prison. Laverne Cox was born in Mobile, Alabama; in a 2014 Mobile Press-Register interview with her mother, Gloria, her birth name was given as Roderick Leverne Cox. She attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts and spent two years at Indiana University before finishing college at Manhattan Marymount College in New York. It was after arriving in New York that she began the transition to female, and changed her focus from dance to acting. She had a few small film and TV parts in the early 2000s, but her first prominent role was as a contestant for two episodes on the reality TV show I Want to Work for Diddy (2008, with Sean Combs). Tall, elegant and striking, she took a variety of guest roles until she landed the role of Sophia in Orange is the New Black in 2013. The role raised her profile and Laverne Cox became a popular TV talk show guest and public speaker on transgender issues. In 2014 she was Emmy-nominated as outstanding guest actress in a comedy series, for the episode “Lesbian Request Denied.” The same year she was on the cover of Time magazine’s June 9 issue, next to the headline “The Transgender Tipping Point.”
Though some sources report Laverne Cox’s year of birth as 1984, Who2 research suggests the actual year is 1972, or very close to it. Her birthday of May 29 was reported by Playbill in 2014… Laverne Cox’s twin brother is the avant-garde artist and musician M. Lamar. He played her as a pre-transition male in one episode of Orange Is the New Black; in the story, Sophia had been a fireman named Marcus Burset… Laverne Cox doesn’t publicly reveal her birth name; the print version of the 2014 interview with her mother Gloria did give her birth name as Roderick Leverne Cox, but that detail has been removed from the archived version of the story on the Mobile Press-Register site AL.com. It now says, “Though both of the Cox children have changed their names, ‘They didn’t stray far from the names their mama gave them,’ Gloria said.” Laverne Cox has written that Laverne was her original middle name (although the spelling, Leverne, is slightly different) and Cox her original last name.