As I sit on a dimly-lit photo set waiting for our interview to begin, I hear the faint hum of opera singing floating down the hall — faint and low at first, then louder and higher pitched as it gets closer. The two large wooden doors to the room burst open, and in waltzes Laverne Cox in a sparkly mini body-con dress and a cropped blonde wig, every inch as fabulous as you would expect.
Cox strides toward me with a huge smile as I reach out my hand to formally introduce myself. "How often do you wash your hair?" she asks me right off the bat, curving my handshake and plopping down on the couch like an old friend. "Do you roller set it?"
The actress, best known for her role as Sophia Burset on Orange Is The New Black, might have Hollywood's best stylists at her fingertips, but she's a hair enthusiast at heart. Today, that comes full circle as she celebrates a huge career moment: a hair contract with Matrix. "I haven't even been able to process my excitement for this partnership fully," Cox gushes to me. "I love that the brand truly has something for everyone. That's so important to me."
Cox's newest endeavour also makes her the first openly transgender celebrity to star in a campaign for the brand, something the actress considers a bold move in the beauty aisle. "When you decide to hire Laverne Cox as your brand ambassador, you're making a statement about inclusivity," she declares. "You're making a statement about inviting everyone to the table, which — honestly — is just good business."
In the case of Cox and Matrix, inviting everyone to the table is more than providing accessible, effective hair care, it's also about breaking down cookie-cutter beauty standards. "I love that Matrix is no-frills, no labels, just results," she says. "People are becoming more exuberant with hair, and they're playing with wigs and colour just how we play with highlighter. Brands shouldn't limit that."
Cox, whose own hair journey has included Beyoncé-inspired tree braids, weaves, braids, wigs, and embracing her natural curls, says that this partnership represents a major milestone for her. "For many years, I would hide parts of myself," she says. "I would think that no one wanted to hear, see, or experience certain parts of who I am in fear of being rejected, but now I am at a point in my life where I want to embrace every shade of the Laverne rainbow."
For Cox, that includes wearing wigs and hair extensions — something that she plans to talk about openly as she promotes the Matrix Total Results line. "I live in wigs, and having a product to take care of my wigs is essential," she says. To tend to her pieces, Cox loves the Length Goals range from Matrix. Underneath her masterful wigs, Cox says that she keeps her natural hair in cornrows for easy maintenance throughout the week. "I've recently committed to oiling my scalp daily," she says. "I keep coconut oil next to my toothbrush, so I brush, floss, and get it done."
Like all of her projects, Cox wants this role to be an opportunity to continue breaking down barriers, especially those formed against transgender people and other marginalized groups. "Whether you're Black, trans, or have 4C curls, I just want people to know that they're beautiful," she says. "I think I am beautiful because of my big hands, my big feet, and my deep voice, although they do make me noticeably trans. At the end of the day, you have to embrace what you've got."
Cox wants her increased visibility in the beauty industry to spread a greater message of self-acceptance. "I hope that I leave behind a legacy of embracing who you are," she says. "Play with hair colour, play with your makeup, get the surgery you've been yearning for, and do it safely. However, be okay with what you see when you look in the mirror today — that person is beautiful."