In the new Netflix documentary she executive produced, Laverne Cox opens up about what it was like coming up as a trans actress, and the trans representation she saw in the media during the time she was coming of age.
"If you are a person of color, an LGBTQ person, a person who's an immigrant, a person with a disability," she says at one point in the documentary, "you develop a critical awareness because you understand that the images that you're seeing are not your life."
Throughout Disclosure, we learn how Candis Cayne's role as Carmelita in Dirty Sexy Money changed the course of trans representation in the media, and empowered Laverne to pursue her dreams of acting like nothing had before.
So, what else do we know about Laverne's upbringing? For one, she has an identical twin brother who has a full-on artistic career in his own right.
Laverne has always been a performer.
On Laverne's own website, the star and activist writes about how seeing Candis in Dirty Sexy Money "changed the course" of her life. "That moment was so pivotal for me: after being in New York pursuing a career as an actress for many years, I now knew it was possible to be openly trans and have a career," she writes. "That possibility model shifted my belief system."
Laverne started performing when she was a child. "I started studying dance when I was 8 years old in Mobile, Alabama, and was performing in dance recitals and talent shows by the time I was in third grade," she writes. "My childhood was filled with dreams of fame and performing in television and movies, and on Broadway and the great stages of the world."
Flash forward some years, and the Orange Is the New Black star's dreams have become a reality. She owes a lot of that to her mother, the star has said in interviews, who despite wishing that she and her identical twin brother would become doctors and lawyers, completely "supported our artistic dreams." "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my mom," the star revealed on Today.
You've seen her brother before, too.
Laverne calls Orange Is the New Black "the show that change[d] my life," and any fan of the Netflix series remembers the inimitable Sophia Burset, whose backstory is told with the help of her identical twin brother, M. Lamar, who plays her character pre-transition.
The twins are very close, and both went on to pursue artistic careers. Today, after attending the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute and Yale's studio art MFA, M. Lamar is a musician and multimedia artist who wants his work to be "visible to certain musical subcultures and deviant undergrounds."
He's shown and performed internationally, and his talents as a performance artist have been applauded by legends such as Hilton Als and Ron Athey.
Laverne calls M. her "moral compass," and shared an anecdote with Conan O'Brien about her musical twin that tells you all you need to know about their relationship. "He was on a radio show and he was doing an interview and he was telling this story about how he was on the subway once and someone came up to him and said, 'Are you Laverne Cox from Orange Is the New Black?'," the actress recalls.
"He told the guy interviewing him that I was offended when he told me this story that someone thought that I was a man because my brother is clearly a guy," she continued, "and he said that he was offended that someone thought he was an actor. That's my brother. I love him."
Follow M. Lamar on Instagram, check out his limited edition artist book, NEGROGOTHIC, on Bandcamp, and don't miss the chance to watch Disclosure on Netflix.