Laverne Cox was a Barbie girl in a Barbie world for her 50th birthday.
The Inventing Anna star celebrated her 50th birthday with a Barbie-themed bash at the Moxy Times Square Hotel in New York on May 26. The same day, Mattel debuted a new Barbie made in Cox’s likeness. That also makes the birthday girl the first-ever transgender person to have a Barbie modeled after them.
“It’s a moment,” Cox exclusively told E! News at the party. “It’s not every day that you have a Barbie made in your image. It’s not every day you turn 50, let’s celebrate.”
The festivities—planned by Marcy Blum—were full of chic doll décor, including real-life “Ken dolls” and a tall Barbie cake with Cox’s new plastic twin as the topper.
The Live from E! Host dazzled guests in a custom look by Garo Sparo. Her red leather bustier dress featured a crimson tulle skirt, matching the one worn by her Barbie.
Despite all the fun and games, Cox told E! News that her Barbie represents something bigger, comparing the moment with when she broke into the entertainment industry.
She said when she had her breakout moment, “I would say, ‘Well, this is an opportunity to change the conversation about trans people. This is an opportunity to represent a group of people who have always existed, but who have not been represented. So it’s been bigger than me.’”
Cox added, “And it feels like not an accident in God’s universe that this Barbie is coming out in a year where there’s unprecedented attacks on trans youth all over this country.”
She specifically pointed out the latest Texas anti-transgender directive by Gov. Greg Abbott. The letter written by Abbott doubles down on an opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton, which relates gender confirming procedures to child abuse, and encourages investigations on parents of trans youth in Texas.
Cox said, “We have to push back in so many ways, a Barbie is a small way, but hopefully Barbie will inspire people to take action and do more.”
She hopes her Barbie provides trans visibility for trans youth to show them their beauty and strength.
“When I grew up, there wasn’t nearly this kind of trans visibility,” Cox said. “So now there is and there’s no stopping us. I think kids need to know that. Adults need to know it, too.”
She told E! News that Candis Cayne was the trans actress that helped Cox see her potential. Cayne’s role in 2007’s Dirty Sexy Money made her the first transgender actress to have a recurring role on primetime TV.
“They [trans youth] need to see themselves,” Cox said. “I think so often, we grow up and we feel shame about who we are. And we feel alone. But when you turn on the television and see someone who looks like us who has a similar story to ours, it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m not alone. Oh, I can be trans and Black and working class background and live my dreams out in America. It’s possible.’”
Trans visibility goes beyond other trans people, Cox said. She explained that it can be as simple as allies watching a documentary or movie showcasing the trans community, saying, “Let’s watch something and have a conversation so that we can be better allies and support. And I think that’s not something that doesn’t just go for trans people, it goes for people with disabilities, people of color.”
She added, “Person to person contact is so crucial.”
As she prepped to ring in the big 5-0, Cox told E! News that she looked forward to seeing old friends.
“There’s a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while,” she said. “The people I invited, I really love and care about and I just want to give them a big hug and say thank you because a lot of them have changed my life in really positive ways.”
With 50 years behind her, Cox explained that she wouldn’t take any of it back. Through the years, she’s not only become the first trans person to have a Barbie in her likeness, but is also the first trans person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in an acting category for her role in Orange is the New Black. It did not come without difficulty. But as she explained, “Without a test, there’s no testimony.”
“Everything that has happened to me, good, bad, ugly, traumatizing, is a gift,” Cox said. “It’s a gift and when I can own all of that—the pain, the trauma, the tragedy—I can use it in my work as an artist [and] use it to be of service and tell the story.”
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