“Orange Is The New Black” star Laverne Cox visits UI campus

Shares her fight for transgender equality

laverne at uiuc“Ain’t I am woman?” Laverne Cox quoted Sojourna Truth’s quote throughout her presentation at the Illini Ballroom this past Tuesday. Laverne is a woman today, but she was not born a woman. She shared with the audience her struggle to find her identity while she dealt with bullies, a confused mother and a brother who couldn’t come out of the closet after seeing what his brother, at the time, was going through.

However, Laverne found herself throughout high school, during college and especially at the nightclubs in New York City. She accredits Tina Sparkles, a drag queen she met in a nightclub one night and quickly befriended, as the reason she had the reassignment surgery to make her a woman 15 years ago.

Today, Laverne is a successful producer, and actress. She is the first transgender, African American woman to write and produce a show, “TRANSform Me”, and she is also a star in the hit Netflix series, “Orange Is The New Black.” Along with her passion, she has a passion as a transgender advocate. She doesn’t want anyone to feel that their gender is being policed, as hers was throughout her life, and she is touring the nation to help others in finding themselves. Here is a video of how audience members felt after the event and what they took away from Laverne’s lessons for life.

When I first made a story board for this project, it was pretty different from the result I have today. I was going to write a news story about same-sex marriage passing in Illinois. It’s timely (it just occurred last week), it’s newsworthy and it’s relevant.

However, schedules conflicted and I couldn’t get interviews with the sources I wanted, and I found all of this out on Monday, so I had to think fast. I somehow came across that Laverne Cox, an actress from one of my favorite shows “Orange Is The New Black” was going to be at the Illini Union that night. I knew I had to go to this and I might as well cover it while I’m at it.

I had hoped I would be able to interview Laverne before, after or even during her presentation, but when I approached one of the directors of the event, she said this was against Laverne’s contract. I know if I was able to get a recording from the presentation, it would have added so much more depth to my video and really made the viewers feel like they were there. I wasn’t able to get that though, but I hope the interviews afterward bring them back to the presentation.

I learned a few things from this project, as I have continued to grow as a multimedia journalist with every project. For this one, I learned to not fear asking people to be on camera for an interview. Some may hesitate, or refuse, but most are willing to be in front of the camera. I also learned that I should have tried to video record after the presentation when Laverne was taking photos with attendees. Since I couldn’t record during, this could have been an option that was second best. It was unfortunate that I had this idea after the event, but I know it for next time! And each project is a lesson.

When making the video, I came across problems with the sound. Even with using my recorder, a lot of the interviews came out quiet. So to fix this, I lowered my recordings to kind of match the interviews sound. I wish it could have all come out loud and clear but, again, it’s all a part of the learning experience.

Overall, I hope this is a great final project that the class enjoys. I have thoroughly enjoyed each project I have made and I like to think I put my heart and soul into each. I’ve learned so much this semester and I look forward to putting my new skills to use in my future career.


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