Actress, producer and activist Laverne Cox is paving the way for so many young LGBTQ people. But who paved the way for her? None other than Culture Club's Boy George.
"Boy George was major for me when I was a kid," Cox told TODAY in honor of our 2021 Pride Month series. "I literally still know every single word to the both of Culture Club's first two albums 'Kissing To Be Clever' and 'Colour By Numbers.'"
The two LGBTQ icons George, 60, and Cox, 49, collided in an episode of Drop the Mic and Cox was slightly star-struck.
"I battled Boy George and I got to meet him for the first time and it was so special because Boy George is sort of the closest thing or a figure that I had that I was like, 'OK this is a little bit of maybe what's going on with me,'" Cox said. "Boy George was like really, really crucial and pivotal for me as a young person and so getting to meet him and share space with him was really an honor. I'm just so grateful that Boy George is still around, and still doing his thing."
Cox, who is transgender, spoke with TODAY while promoting an animated film called "Rainbow Story" that she created in partnership with sparkling water brand SodaStream.
According to a press release by SodaStream, the company launched a "Rainbow Story" limited edition sparkling water maker kit that "encourages consumers to do just that." The kit features a sleek matte black design and comes with six rainbow markers for consumers to personalize their machines with their personal pride stories. A portion of proceeds will be donated to ILGA World, a global LGBTQI+ NGO.
"What's been so great about the SodaStream campaign is it's gotten me thinking a lot about the little kid inside me," Cox said. "The little kid who'd like to dance, who was made fun out because of that, and who gets to live this life that I'm living now that is just really incredible and a dream come true. I hope when folks get their SodaStream, they will you know share their rainbow stories on the SodaStream have conversations with the people in their lives about being LGBTQ+, and just the possibilities that that lie before us if we come from a place of acceptance and love."
Cox has no regrets about her past and encourages other LGBTQ+ youth to "be the superhero of your own life."
"I have no regrets because everything has happened for a reason," she said. "I would tell my younger self that 'you're doing exactly what you need to do. You're on a path that you don't quite understand now, but you'll understand it better by and by," quoting a hymn from the church she grew up in.
On who from the younger generation of LGBTQ leaders that she looks to for inspiration, Cox says reality star and activist Jazz Jennings.
"I just love that she's been a public figure since she was very very young, one of the very first transgender kids that we got to meet on television," Cox said about Jennings, now 20. “Right now, trans kids are under attack and they're being sort of talked about and not often talked with. Jazz’s whole life is a blueprint of what is possible for trans kids when they have love and when they have support. Not only was she able to live her life authentically on on a TLC show, she was valedictorian of her high school class and she's now going to Harvard University."
A year ago, Cox teamed up with Netflix to produce "Disclosure," a documentary that examines how transgender people have been depicted in the media in the past.
The "Orange is the New Black" actress also speaks up about her personal experiences in the documentary. "I think the way trans people have been represented on screen have suggested that we are not real, have suggested that we are mentally ill, that we don't exist," Cox said in the trailer. "And yet, here I am. Yet here we are, and we've always been here."
Soon, Cox will be able to add red carpet host to her long list of accomplishments. E! announced earlier this year that Cox will lead red carpet coverage starting with the 2022 season.
"I'm so excited about that," Cox said. "I am a bit nervous, but I'm more excited and just curious about how it's all gonna go down but I'm just really excited and lucky. I've always had incredible experiences working with (E!) over the years and now I get to be part of the family."
According to an NBCUniversal press release, Cox will also host a "series of celebrity-based interview specials spotlighting trendsetters, tastemakers and those making an impact in the Hollywood community."
"On my podcast, 'The Laverne Cox Show,' there was definitely a learning curve for me getting used to interviewing people as opposed to being interviewed, and I am ready, I'm ready to go," Cox said. "I am a curious person, and actors, directors, musicians have careers that are incredible and special. Getting to share those moments with them is kind of how I'm wanting to approach all of it.
"Just being in celebration of art and celebration of entertainment."
E! and TODAY are both owned by the same parent company, NBCUniversal.
During LGBTQ Pride Month, TODAY is sharing the community’s history, pain, joy and what’s next for the movement. We will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout the entire month of June. For more, head here.