But the arguably most powerful moment of the night came from Laverne Cox, who was on hand in a shimmering, body-hugging Marc Bouwer gown to accept Maybelline New York’s “Make It Happen” award. The honor was presented by Yahoo’s own Katie Couric, who credited Cox with educating her and others about the proper ways to address trans issues following a highly publicized gaffe Couric made on her talk show in early 2014.
Explained Couric, “I asked a question about my guest’s anatomy, which I later learned was highly offensive to the transgender community. […] Luckily, on that very same program, Laverne was on hand to explain with patience and compassion and no judgement. […] She has singlehandedly catapulted this issue out of the shadows and into living rooms all across the country.”
In fact, it was Cox who requested that Couric give her the award. “The reason I wanted Katie Couric to be here is because, the moment that we had on her talk show over a year and a half ago changed the trajectory of my life and my career,” the Orange Is the New Black actress revealed. “I believe it changed the conversation about who transgender people are.”
Cox went on to thank her mother, Gloria, for enrolling her in third grade dance classes “when the entire community suggested that dance classes would turn me gay. They did not!,” as well as sharing the truly intimate, personal meaning behind the now-viral social media hashtag she began earlier this year, #TransIsBeautiful.
“Years ago, in the beginning of my transition, I would walk out into the street, and I would hear people yell, ‘That’s a man!’ And I would be devastated, because here I was—I had finally extended my womanhood to the world,” she recalled.
“It took my years to fully materialize that someone could look at me and tell that I was transgender—that’s not normally OK. But all of the things that make me uniquely and beautifully trans—my big hands, my big feet, my wide shoulders, my deep voice… all of these things are beautiful. I’m not beautiful despite these things.
“So I’d like to encourage every single one of you to join with me in that—in showing the world that trans is beautiful, in terms of how we cover trans stories and diverse stories in general. There are so many kinds of unique in the world that I want to celebrate, and I know each and every one of you wants to celebrate.”
Unsurprisingly (and deservedly so), Cox’s powerful, heartfelt speech received a standing ovation, which was begun by model Gigi Hadid and quickly spread throughout the rest of the audience. We wouldn’t be shocked if Vanity Fair found its next cover star—or at the very least, feature subject—at the very same event.