Cuban-born American actress, Selenis Levya, 44, who plays Gloria Mendoza in the Netflix original Orange is the New Black, has proven that talent—not any old, tired, sexist, racist, ageist, Hollywood standards for who is allowed to be seen on TV—is the true prerequisite for being a star.
And in addition to her incredible acting, Levya is also a longtime activist, fighting for LGBTQ rights. Levya's real-life sister Marizol is a transgender woman, as is her co-star Laverne Cox, who she referred to as "my sister" in a recent interview with Ice & Coco.
“I have a transgender sister who I fight for on a daily basis. I’m an advocate and a supporter of the LGBTQ community. What we’ve done [on Orange is the New Black] is introduce not only a diverse group of women—lesbian, Latinas, black, white—but also the first transgender [actress of color to have a leading role on a mainstream, scripted TV show], Laverne Cox, who we put in a positive light. We’ve educated people—but it’s a fight.
“It’s dangerous for society to think that [Caitlyn Jenner’s life] is the life of a transgender woman. That it’s all easy, that it’s glamorous, that you’re going to be in Vanity Fair. That’s not the reality of the transgender community. Especially the black and Latina transgender community, there’s still unemployment, the rate of suicide and violence against them is extremely high. We have a long way to go to educate.”
BroadMinded salutes Levya for her work not only schooling Hollywood on what it looks like to truly represent all women—but also fighting for our LGBTQ sisters, day in and day out. Here are some videos you can watch to learn more about Levya's background as an actress, activist and all around amazing human being.
Talking to Ice & Coco:
An interview with a Duke College student. (We love younger sisters getting a wisdom download by asking questions!)
Accepting the Stonewall Vision Award honoring "the work of extraordinary individuals and groups that use their voice, position, or talent to improve and enrich the lives of LGBTQ people."
Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on an 81-year-old transgender icon who paved the way for transgender women athletes!