Laverne Cox to address a sold-out Missouri Theatre

The critically acclaimed actress and transgender movement advocate will serve as the keynote speaker for One Mizzou.

Laverne Cox will soon add “first transgender One Mizzou Week keynote speaker” to her list of accomplishments.

Cox, known for her work in television shows such as “TRANSform Me” and “Orange Is the New Black,” will give a talk entitled “Ain’t I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood” and draw from her personal experiences to describe how race, class and gender make an impact on the lives of transwomen of color.

At the opening event of One Mizzou Week, Cox will speak to a sold-out crowd at the Missouri Theatre on Oct. 6.

One Mizzou education co-chairman Shane Stinson said the initiative aims to make campus inclusive, embracive and understanding.

“It’s trying to create the space that if you feel uncomfortable going to an event, those people at those events are going to educate you and also be very accepting and embracing towards you, no matter what your identity,” Stinson said.

Cale Sears, DSA Speakers Committee senior chairman and One Mizzou week chairman, worked with his committee and the One Mizzou team to bring Cox to MU.

“We work together to select the speakers for the semester or for the year that can bring together socially contemporary issues with pop culture, something that can draw students in, something that is very current,” Sears said.

As a public speaker and popular actress, Stinson said Cox embodies who the One Mizzou committee were looking for in a keynote speaker.

“She brings so many awesome identities to the table,” Stinson said. “She talks about being a transwoman of color, she shines light on what her life was like growing up and she wants to further expand the ideas in people’s minds about acceptance, equality, and how important it is to listen to these minority identities and bring love and understanding to them.”

Tickets for Cox’s speech sold out in a matter of days. Sears said he believes it’s because she has captivated young adults. He said he is glad the Missouri Theatre will host her during her rise to wider fame.

Cox also brings many personal qualities to her advocacy that inspire and motivate many people, he said.

“She is unapologetically herself, and I think that’s a really hard thing to do,” Sears said. “She’s got to be tough to do what she does and keep going, and she doesn’t look like she’s stopping anytime soon. I hope that being with her helps to remind me of why I need to be tough as well because we don’t have time to sit around and be afraid of what other people think.”

Ahad Hosseini, One Mizzou Steering Committee chairman, said he hopes Laverne, as other speakers have done in the past, will renew campus vigor for social change.

“I think Laverne will have a unique impact and feel because we’re talking about a community that has been marginalized pretty heavily for quite some time and been made fun of and poked fun at,” Hosseini said. “Laverne stands as a person who has risen to the top of so many different media outlets.”

Stinson said he shares the hope that Cox will have an emotional effect on campus life.

“I think she will bring a lot of empathy out of everyone,” Stinson said. “I think that she is a very motivating speaker and is inspiring. A lot of people will empathize with her story, and I think she’ll push people to be more active in this movement.”

Hosseini said he remains impressed by Cox’s motivation to continue to make a difference.

“You can have the talent to be an actress, that’s one thing,” he said. “But actually becoming kind of like a symbol or figurehead for a movement is an entirely different thing altogether.”

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