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Laverne Cox Talks Cocktail Party Tips, Karaoke, and Ted Danson

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Courtesy of Smirnoff

Laverne Cox is not only the epitome of glam, she’s also a Hollywood gamechanger. The first openly trans person to be nominated for an acting Emmy, Cox advocates for LGBTQ rights, boosts trans awareness, and sets a powerful example—all while looking enviably flawless. Much has been written about Cox on all of that, so we decided to take a short break from it—a cocktail break, in fact.

Why? Well the Orange Is The New Black star is joining forces with Ted Danson and a slew of other high-profile celebs to promote Smirnoff as the ultimate fun, quality vodka that’s made for everyone—no matter who you love, what you look like, or what gender you identify with. Cox told us about this new partnership, her favorite summer drinks, her admiration for Danson (and karaoke), and how inclusivity is more important than ever these days.

Supercall: In your Smirnoff commercial, you and Ted Danson are sipping on a vodka cocktail that looks super delicious. What’s your go-to drink in the summertime?
Laverne Cox: I love a Smirnoff Cosmopolitan, yes. Shout out to Sex and the City. It just feels lovely. Side note, working with Ted Danson was an incredible dream come true. He’s a living legend and when I met him, he made a joke about being a national treasure. He said it jokingly, but I was like: “But you are, Ted. You are a national treasure, and a living legend, and you should own that.”

SC: Speaking of that, what’s the most random collection of famous people you’ve had a cocktail with at one time?
LC: It was a couple years ago after the Time 100. We all went to a karaoke bar, and when I say “we” it was Ronan Farrow, Mia Farrow, Julianna Margulies, the creator of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, and [OITNB showrunner] Jenji Kohan was there with her husband. A lot of it was doing karaoke, it was all so surreal. I was also at a stage in my career when I was still very starstruck, not that I don’t get starstruck anymore. Because I still do. I do karaoke all the time—it just felt wild to be doing karaoke after the Time 100 with like, these people that I really admired and respect.

SC: What’s your karaoke song?
LC: I have many. My main two lately have been “Chandelier” by Sia and “The Phantom of the Opera.”

SC: Would you rather go to a rooftop party in the summer, or a casual backyard barbecue?
LC: I love a rooftop party. I’m from New York, so there is something about being on a rooftop and being up high, it just feels awesome. The right rooftop, though. It has to have the right rooftop vibe—which is all about really good conversation, and really great cocktails. If you have the wrong mix of people—it’s just kind of over.

SC: You’re always incredibly glamorous, no matter what you’re doing. Do you ever just want to chill in sweatpants?
LC: When I’m on TV, I’m working, so of course I’m going to be glamorous and I’m going to have a glam squad to get me together. But in real life I’m a big fan of jean shorts, leggings, and sweatpants for sure. So when I’m not working, I wear sweatpants all the time. When I’m at home, I love a Madras—vodka, cranberry juice, and orange juice in a highball glass—and not because it sounds like “mattress.” I’m a huge fan of naps.

SC: Smirnoff is for everyone in America, “no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like”—how important is it for the trans community in America to hear this kind of message being shared on the national stage?
LC: I’m an openly trans woman, who is very proud of being a black trans woman. I didn’t grow up seeing black trans women in commercials and on television or selling products. I didn’t feel like I was part of the culture. I didn’t feel like I was part of the world, really. What’s exciting to me is that folks will see me in these commercials, with the legendary Ted Danson, and maybe feel like they can be a part of the “Fun Percent”—and be a part of the world, no matter who they are.

SC: You must have a lot of inspirational interactions with fans. What’s the most memorable moment you’ve shared with a fan?
LC: There’s been so many, but recently, I was on my Instagram page and I was looking at some of the comments on a video I posted, and a trans girl that I talk to a lot in my comment section said that watching my videos made her feel really good about not getting injections in her booty. That’s a thing, people do that. In this world there’s so much pressure to look a certain way and do things that may not always be the healthiest, so you can look a certain way. What I loved about that was me just being myself gave her permission to choose beauty on her own terms. That felt really positive and affirming to me.

SC: Does the OINTB cast ever go out drinking together? Do you have a favorite memory from one of those parties?
LC: We have, yes; oh my gosh, there’s a few. We used to shoot at Kaufman Astoria and there’s a bar across the street and then another bar like a block over, so we’ve went there a few times, and we’ve had a cocktail a few times there. Natasha Lyonne had a New Year’s Eve party one year and it was just an incredible, eclectic group of people. She has some really cool friends, so it was people from Orange and other people you may know, but then she had some New York downtown performance artists and some stand-up-comedians. It was a really awesome group of people.

SC: When you’re at these parties with all these different types of people, what’s your #1 rule for good cocktail party conversation?
LC: I ask bold questions. You feel out where people are and you gotta keep it real. Sometimes the funny thing is what people say to stay away from politics and religion when you’re trying to have a conversation. I find that the more interesting moments I’ve had at cocktail parties is when we do talk about politics, and we do talk about things we’re not supposed to talk about. I think when you’re at a party and having conversation, it’s about finding ways to get people to talk and come out of their shell, and feel like they have a voice. At a cocktail party and in the world in general, I think that’s a great way to go about things.