Laverne Cox Is Fighting to Make the Fitness Industry More Trans-Inclusive

"Everyone needs to be fit, everyone needs to move."

Laverne Cox interview
Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Classically trained in ballet from a young age, actress and advocate Laverne Cox knows firsthand the many benefits — both physical and mental — that come with simply moving your body. But, unfortunately, not everyone has access to or feels welcomed in the fitness space, especially members of the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities.

To move this needle, Cox partnered with Smirnoff to make fitness more inclusive and bring awareness to Black women-owned businesses during Women's History Month, like D.C.-based and woman and Black-owned fitness studio SideBarre. The Orange Is the New Black alum joins the liquor brand as they team up with the small business to bring complimentary virtual classes to hundreds of adults across the U.S. throughout the month.

Cox tells InStyle that she was thrilled to join this initiative because she believes every single person has the right to work out. "I've talked to trans folks who haven't felt comfortable at a certain gym. They don't feel like [the gym is] inclusive or they're not supported, they're singled out, or harassed there. So having this space be inclusive for people of color or LGBTQ folks, is crucial."

Growing up as a dancer, Cox has personally felt the weight of the prejudices that the fitness and dance worlds can have. She says that at times she struggled with feeling she wasn't enough. "It can be really rough, a lot of Black bodies are not the traditional ballet body," says the Promising Young Woman star. "And Misty Copeland has talked a lot about that: Black folks and ballet [have] a tricky history. I never had a ballet body."

She shares that the many traumas she faced during her time as a dancer still impact her today even when taking a barre class. "How do I kind of parse out my love of ballet, but then all the trauma I had around never feeling enough?" she says, adding that working with Black women-owned SideBarre has been "healing" for her. "I think it's beautiful that these Black women are kind of claiming this space of ballet with a remix of other fitness movements."

Cox tells us she is in a much better headspace these days, working out when she wants, and how she wants. What means the most to her, she says, is getting her heart rate up, becoming "one with the music" and "shedding anxiety."

"I'm not overachieving in fitness at the moment," Cox tells us. "I'm doing it, it's not as high-level, but I like where I'm at with it now. It's fun, it's medicinal, and I'm not being hard on myself. I think studying classical ballet creates this thing where you just beat yourself up, and I'm not doing that right now."

Although, she adds with a laugh that she does have a man in her life who motivates her to stay in shape. "He's in incredible shape, and he'll send me videos of him working out, and he boxes. He's really committed to working out, so I'm going to get it together."

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