(CBS Local)– Bronx native Selenis Levya has been an actor for over 20 years and has never experienced a show like “Orange Is The New Black.”

The groundbreaking series went on for seven seasons, was one Netflix’s first bingeable series, and prominently featured women and LGBTQ actors. The show came at a perfect time for Levya as her sister Marizol was making a transition as a transgender woman. The Levya sisters wrote about their experience and their lives in the new book “My Sister: How One Sibling’s Transition Changed Us Both.”

“It was important for me to use my platform. I believe if you have a platform, you have a responsibility to do more than just promote your work and yourself,” said Selenis Levya in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “Being an ally of the LBTQB+ community for as long as I can remember, I felt it was important to honor my sister and give her an opportunity to share her experience as a trans woman. For the last couple of years, we’ve had more conversations about the trans community. I think the representation of the Latinx voice, the middle and lower class voice, the not famous voice, it’s time to be heard.”

“For me, it’s been an amazing experience for the simple fact that I’ve been completely blessed to have my sister give me a platform to build for myself and my community,” said Marizol Levya. “We wanted to start conversations that aren’t often had. Starting the conversations and sharing our story has been an amazing feeling and super humbling because there are other people out there like myself.”


Both Selenis and Marizol will forever be grateful for the impact of “Orange Is The New Black” on their lives and relationship.

“When we started with Orange Is The New Black, nobody knew what streaming was going to be like,” said Selenis Levya. “We were the guinea pigs. Here we were entering this new world with a cast of diverse women. We were heavy duty in it and dealing with a lot of issues that I wasn’t sure who was going to be into and open to it. I met Laverne Cox on the show and here is a trans woman that is going to be the voice to a lot of people. I knew her role on the show and outside of the show was going to be monumental.”

“It was super liberating to see someone that is a trans person and identifies as a trans woman,” said Marizol Levya. “There wasn’t a space in Hollywood or TV and film where trans people were being portrayed in a positive way. When I saw Laverne Cox on the screen, it was like wow we are possibly going into the right direction. It gave hope to the trans community that we were going in the right direction.”

“My Sister: How One Sibling’s Transition Changed Us Both” is available now wherever books are sold.


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