Laverne Cox
Credit: Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP

When Laverne Cox hit the red carpet at the 2015 Emmys, she had one goal in mind. "I really wanted to feel comfortable in my skin," the Orange is the New Black star told InStyle before heading in to the ceremony inside the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. "Not a lot of actors get to come to the biggest night in television—particularly as a black transgender woman. This means so much to me, and I'm just trying to be present for it."

Unfortunately, being present meant being well aware of the above-90-degree temperatures on the red carpet. "The struggle is real," said Cox. Even so, she was focused on things that were way more important than the heat. "I really just want to show people out there that their dreams are possible," she said. Her advice? "Don't give up on your dreams, and follow your passion."

Those words of wisdom come from experience—specifically, Cox's own journey to Hollywood. "I think for many years when I was trying to be an actress, I wasn't getting anywhere," she said. "There was no hope and there were no roles for or examples of trans women who had come before me. But I said to myself, 'I love doing this, and I want to keep doing this no matter what.' So stay in the love and stay in the passion."

While she may encourage others to follow in her fabulous footsteps, Cox still isn't comfortable with is being called an icon. "Even if those things are true—whatever those things may be—it comes with a lot of responsibility and obligation to the community," she said. "I'm just trying to do the best that I can, and I don't always do it right."

One thing that Cox consistently gets right is her red carpet style. "I like to mix it up," she said. "I still have a flashy side to me, but I want to continue to evolve and try new things—I don't want to get stuck in a rut, and I think most women out there don't want to get bored. I want to keep myself interested." Her designer of choice tonight? Calvin Klein. "It's pretty good," she said of her gown. "Calvin Klein has a certain aesthetic that I've always loved and admired, and just to stand here in this dress and embody what Calvin Klein stands for feels pretty awesome." So awesome, in fact, that Cox didn't have to think twice to come up with a hashtag that described both how she looked and felt: "#modernbadass."

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