The entire world isn’t solely obsessed with Orange is the New Black just because of its ability to make us marathon cry-laugh, or because every individual character possesses a trait to which we can all relate. Nor are we head-over-heels for this show just because it showcases a group of strong, complex women. Oh, no. We’re also so very in love with OITNB because of how much luminous admiration we have for the cast, a diverse group of (mostly) women who are truly inspirational. They’ve very publicly shared their fears which they’ve overcome and are proud social justice leaders. Here are just some of the instances when our favorite pseudo-felons won over our do-better hearts:
When Dascha Polanco talked about the importance of body confidence
Polanco, who plays the impressionable but adorkable Dayanara Diaz, told Bustle that her insecurities initially stopped her from pursuing acting. However, after her fiancée encouraged her to finally follow her dreams, she began to slowly abandon her self-doubt and negative thoughts about her body. Polanco states, “I read messages from little girls telling me they think I’m beautiful. And that validation—receiving love—means more than anything. As imperfect as you are, you’re still perfect.” So well spoken.
When Laverne Cox challenged Hollywood gender ideals, and was nominated for an Emmy because she’s that amazing
Cox has been an LGBTQ activist and crusader in the entertainment industry for awhile, exposing the need for more transgender representation in Hollywood. So, when she became the first transgender person nominated for an Emmy for her performance in OITNB, we all cheered for her. In People, she stated, “I’m just really proud of who I am. I love myself today—and I don’t everyday. It’s something I have to work at. My career and my life changed when I started accepting and embracing myself more.” Okay, now I’m tearing up.
When Uzo Aduba refused to change her unique name, and embraced the gap between her teeth
As a girl with an impossibly long and pretty unconventional last name that’s been butchered since grade school, I get where a young Uzo was coming from when she wanted to change her name to a more simple “Zoe.” However, in an interview with the Improper Bostonian, Aduba’s desires to change her name just prompted her mother to say, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.” So the actress stood by her name, embracing her Nigerian background.
Aduba is also known for her pearly white gap, a beautiful and unique trait she once considered ugly. She wrote in an essay for Cosmopolitan, “[My smile] was the greatest imperfection. Straight-up ugly.” It took a compliment from a photographer (who told her that her smile was gorgeous) in order to combat years of insecurity. “It’s amazing how years of hearing the same responses from family and friends constantly had fallen on deaf ears. But right then, I heard it and felt beautiful,” she admitted.
When the cast celebrated LGBTQ pride
OITNB had its own float in the New York City Gay Pride parade, and the cast was ALL about supporting the cause.
That time Lea DeLaria got Fred Phelps kicked out of pride parade
Okay, so this was technically before OITNB existed, but I still think it’s incredibly hero-worthy. At the 1992 New York Pride Rally, DeLaria spotted Reverend Fred Phelps, who was protesting with offensive signs. Of course there was no way Boo—I mean, Delaria—would stand for that. She marched over to his hateful group and drove him out. For HuffPost Live, she shares, “It reached a point where he literally tried to cross the police line to hit me. I was so horrible to him, and the police honestly looked like they just wanted an excuse to throw him out, so they were really excited that they got to throw him out.”
When Taylor Schilling told us that looks aren’t everything
In the July issue of Allure, Taylor Schilling’s lovable self shared some wisdom, arguing that a person’s worth is not based on their looks: “I don’t feel bound by my face or my body. I don’t feel like that’s the biggest gift I have to offer the world. I feel like there are more parts of me to offer than that.”
All I know is that OITNB is the biggest gift anyone could have ever offered me, and I’m thankful for its inspirational, kick-ass cast.