By Keisha Hatchett
Updated May 19, 2015 at 08:05 PM EDT
Credit: Rich Fury/Invision/AP

Laverne Cox continues to shine as an actress and outspoken advocate, recently telling Time that transgender people need more than just representation in the media. On Monday, she was honored by the Feminist Majority Foundation for “changing the face of media” during the 10th annual Global Women’s Rights Awards.

“As a proud feminist, I love what the Feminist Majority stands for,” she said.

Before starring as a stylish felon on Orange is the New Black, Cox was a struggling actress on the verge of quitting. During the ceremony, she expressed her admiration for fellow honorees Shonda Rhimes and OITNB creator Jenji Kohan for their portrayal of black women on TV, and for the opportunities that they have created for women like her.

“Even though I’ve never worked with Shonda, she and Jinji have both changed my life in terms of thinking about black women and actresses on television. And Jinji, well three years ago I could barely pay my rent, and I was thinking about going to grad school and doing something that actually paid because I had not worked in a very long time as an actress.”

If Cox hadn’t landed her breakout role in the Netflix series, she would have been well on her way to a graduate degree in Women’s Studies. She recalled how she almost took a completely different path, saying, “I was studying for the G.R.E’s and all of a sudden this role came along, and I auditioned and here we are.”

Reporting by Reagan Alexander at People.

Episode Recaps

Orange Is the New Black

Jenji Kohan’s absorbing ensemble dramedy, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, takes viewers inside the walls of Litchfield, a minimum security women’s prison where nothing’s as simple as it seems—especially the inmates.

  • TV Show
  • 6
  • TV-MA
  • Netflix