Laverne Cox has a lot on her mind.
"I'm overwhelmed," she admitted Saturday at BeautyCon in New York City.
The sold-out festival brought thousands of makeup lovers and influencers to New York City's Javits Center along with Hillary Clinton, Bozama Saint John, Paris Hilton, Zendaya and her "Orange is the New Black" co-star, Danielle Brooks.
Cox found herself standing in the food service area, her four-inch open-toed stilettos standing on an unfinished cement floor. As servers moved about, balancing dirty dishes and lipstick-rimmed glasses, Cox stood unmoved. Behind her were mountains of plastic racks, filled with glassware and dishes. The actress, known best for playing trans inmate Sophia Burset on "Orange," sported an ombre-vamp lip that still held a smile.
"I’m overwhelmed, but I just met a woman who told me about a friend of hers from back in the day, who came out as trans and their family didn’t accept them, and they ended up committing suicide, and I hear a lot of those stories," she told "Good Morning America" without taking a breath, "and she was just so grateful I’m out doing what I’m doing. Those are the reminders of how important visibility is. I'm going to start crying."
"You’re working and then you forget that people see you and they get a sense of hope and they get a reason to live sometimes," Cox, 45, continued, dabbing her eyes. "So it gets very serious although it’s Beautycon and it’s supposed to be fun and light, but people are struggling."
Makeup is more about utility for Cox, who attended BeautyCon with her fellow judges on "Glam Masters," a new Kim Kardashian West-produced beauty competition show on Lifetime. When she was single -- and she isn't anymore, for the record -- she wouldn't even wear makeup on first dates.
"I started wearing makeup in high school as a way to express myself, and just sort of announce to the world, 'Oh, you thought you knew who I was but no, no, no, no, no! This is who I really am,'" she explained.
"Makeup was a form of self-expression," Cox continued. "It was a way of actualizing my femme and being in the world on my own terms. That’s what beauty was for me then."
At nearly every booth inside BeautyCon, attendants often reached for your cell phone, prompting you to take selfies with a specialized hashtag. From #NYXCosmetics to #LoveHealthySexyHair, hashtags were everywhere. And at Loccitane's booth, makeup fans couldn't grab freebies without posting a photo to their own social media with, of course, a hashtag.
Cox is concerned with her fans' obsession with being picture-perfect for social media.
"I get worried that people are on Instagram and seeing these people that are [Face]tuned and surgically altered and think that’s what they have to do to be successful and they don’t even know the side-effects often times," she said. "When you see someone trans, they think it’s all about surgery. There’s a lot of non-trans people who have way more surgery than I have."
"I love the idea of doing things to enhance yourself, if it’s about becoming more yourself. But thinking that's what you have to do to be successful..." Cox trails off, looking away.
Turning abruptly back, Cox asked rhetorically, "What is the work we’re doing on the inside?"
The transgender activist has no shame in talking about how she's working to heal the trauma she's faced in her life, she said, from being black, trans and from a working-class background.
It's why she frequents a somatic therapist, which is a type of therapy that marries the mind and body to ease stress, anxiety and other issues related to trauma and abuse. She also has a daily practice of gratitude.
"When I wake up, I write down five things that I’m grateful for and five things I’m manifesting," she detailed.
It's worked for her.
"In 2013 -- that was a magical year -- I wrote down I wanted a book deal, I wanted an Emmy, and I wanted a speaking agent and a college tour. All of them happened," she boasted, noting that her book hasn't hit the shelves yet because "it's complicated."
"And when there’s a service element, the universe says, 'OK. This is it,'" Cox added, moving slightly to the left as another server whizzed by.