Dascha Polanco, Yael Stone, and Lea DeLaria, better known by Orange Is The New Black fans as Daya, Morello, and Big Boo, attended a Q&A at the New York Marriott Marquis on Wednesday, June 10th. Lucky for me, I got to attend the event that celebrated Marriott International Inc.’s groundbreaking partnership with Netflix, which will allow Marriott guests access to their Netflix accounts on the hotel’s internet-connected guest room televisions.
As a guest, I checked in at the desk, where I received my very own orange jumpsuit. I threw it on and tried my best to embrace my inner convict, a challenge I have luckily yet to face in my life until yesterday. Before the stars arrived, guests could take mock mug shots while holding a “Marriott x OITNB” sign. A genius PR move to say the very least.
Fans didn’t waste any time easing into the tough questions. The first brave soul to raise her hand asked all three cast members, “What makes a woman a woman?”
Stone, who plays Morello in the Netflix series, was first to speak. She put things rather simply at first, very eloquently stating:
“I think it comes down to what that person feels.”
She continued to speak about changing gender boundaries and said she’s excited to see that the gender spectrum is becoming more flexible. She’s incredibly grateful to know and work with co-star Laverne Cox, who’s been very open about her gender transition in the past and her sex change. Stone says she’s glad to be “edging out” the gender boundaries by Cox’s side, and has been “proud to be in [Laverne’s] journey, in a small way, with her.”
Polanco, also known as Daya on OITNB, talked about self-acceptance, and feels that people still lack the ability to embrace differences and accept one another regardless of physical appearance today. She hopes to see that change in the future.
“I think that labeling is a problem that we still have in society. I think there’s no such thing as equality, still, across the board.”
DeLaria, a former stand-up comedian, naturally threw in a joke to lighten up the mood. It would prove to be her first of many questionably inappropriate, but absolutely amazing comments last night.
“I think the most basic prerequisite as a woman is that you must want me. If you don’t want me, you’re not a woman.”
Sexuality and particularly transgender transitioning has become an extremely prominent topic of conversation lately, especially since Caitlyn Jenner‘s debut on the cover of Vanity Fair. One of the many celebrities to comment on Caitlyn’s big reveal was Laverne Cox, who we all knew would have something to say about it.
Cox lauded Jenner for helping the transgender movement take another monumental step towards equality, but also urged people to remember the real issue at hand amidst the apparent focus on Caitlyn’s physical appearance. Cox reminded us that not all transgender people want or care to adhere to societal standards of what is “beautiful,” nor do many of them have the means, as Caitlyn did, to do so.
Cox told Rolling Stone:
“Most trans folks don’t have the privileges Caitlyn and I have now have.”
“It is those trans folks we must continue to lift up, get them access to healthcare, jobs, housing, safe streets, safe schools and homes for our young people. We must lift up the stories of those most at risk, statistically trans people of color who are poor and working class… I hope, as I know Caitlyn does, that the love she is receiving can translate into changing hearts and minds about who all trans people are as well as shifting public policies to fully support the lives and well being of all of us. The struggle continues.”
She’s right. The struggle does continue, but that’s not to say there hasn’t been progress. In fact, just today Entertainment Weekly released the cover of their June LGBT issue, with Cox as the cover model dressed as the Statue of Liberty.
Cox has become the most famous transgendered actress in America – the public face for transgender America. She’s grateful for that, but it’s not an easy role to take on.
Cox told EW:
“I just wonder, am I allowed to be a human being?”
Listening to Cox’s co-stars speak of her journey was incredibly inspirational. The show itself truly represents so much of the progress this country has made in the past decade. After all, how often do we really come across a show where the heroes are all female? It’s amazing, and it’s only become possible because at some point or another, people chose to accept each other and to support each other. And that’s exactly what I saw at the Q&A last night. Acceptance, support, and more than anything, love.
While the actresses discussed some pretty heavy topics, they had their fun too. Listen to ‘Big Boo’ talk about her all-time “favorite” scene on the show, below. Oh, and make sure to reserve at least ten hours of your weekend to binge on OITNB. Season 3 premieres Friday, June 12th.