Orange Is the New Black star Selenis Leyva says Laverne Cox helped her understand her trans sister

Actress Selenis Leyva and sister Marizol Leyva attend the 2017 Anti-Violence Project Courage Awards at Pier 59 on October 11, 2017 in New York City.

Orange Is the New Black star Selenis Leyva has spoken about how the show’s story arc featuring Laverne Cox shaped her relationship with her own transgender sister.

Leyva, who played the chef and Latina matriarch Gloria Mendoza on the Netflix prison series, explained that Laverne Cox’s character had a special significance for her, because she has a transgender sister in real life.

Orange Is the New Black transgender storyline was very important for Selenis Leyva.

Speaking to People magazine, Leyva explained: “When I met Laverne, I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to watch her.’

“I thought, ‘How is this going to play out? Is this character going to be a respectful representation or is it going to be fluff and surface?’

“Laverne and I had our conversations, I told her I had a transgender sister. But I was so thrilled, not only that the character had so many layers and was beautifully written, but also Laverne’s ability to convey her thoughts and feelings in a way that made you listen that I knew would be really impactful.”

Selenis Leyva as Gloria Mendoza on Orange is the New Black

Selenis Leyva, centre-left, as Gloria Mendoza on Orange is the New Black

She added: “About a year after we met, I got to present Laverne with an award and [her sister] Marizol attended the ceremony with me.

“It was the first time that I declared to the world, to everyone in that room, that I had a transgender sister.

“It was also the first time Marizol had vocally said, ‘Yes, I am a trans woman.’ It was through the platform that Laverne and that Orange Is the New Black had created for us.”

Sisters have written a book about Marizol’s transition

Leyva also spoke about her relationship with Marizol, acknowledging that she made “mistakes” after her sister came out.

She added: “It was really painful. I thought, ‘Did I do enough?’ But I had to ease up on myself because I really didn’t have the tools I have today. Maybe I could’ve done more, but I don’t have a magic wand.”

The two sisters have now written a book together, My Sister: How One Sibling’s Transition Changed Us Both, which tells the story of their relationship and family struggles from two different perspectives.