Laverne Cox on Her Historic Emmy Nomination: 'I Love Myself Today'

07/10/2014 at 04:25 PM EDT

Laverne Cox Celebrates Her Emmy Nomination
Laverne Cox in Orange Is the New Black
Jill Greenberg/Netflix
Talk about a good morning!

Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black, started her day off with the news of a lifetime – she received her first Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series.

"I'm [feeling] pretty awesome," Cox tells PEOPLE. "I don't feel coherent. I'm just like a giddy, effervescent creature of the universe who is blessed and highly favored."

After going online to confirm the news with her own eyes, "I jumped up and down and then cried," she says, still fighting back tears. "My agent of seven years, Paul, was the first person to call me. I'd auditioned for other agents in the past who all told me, 'I can't do anything with you, you're trans, I don't think you'll be able to get work.' But Paul saw something in me and took a chance."



A chance that has now turned into a history-making Emmy nomination. "I'm aware that I'm the first openly trans woman to be nominated for an acting Emmy," says Cox, an outspoken advocate for the transgender community.

"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. I hope this inspires my other black, trans folks to pursue their dreams, too."

Long before OINTB, the actress was vying for a job as a contestant on Sean Combs's reality show, I Want to Work for Diddy. As for her success compared to his, "He owns his own network, so Diddy's doing fine," Cox says with a laugh. "I got my start on reality TV, but I had been acting for a really long time."



Cox, who is joined by friends and castmates Natasha Lyonne and Uzo Aduba in the category, isn't worried about who will win just yet (though she calls Aduba, who plays Crazy Eyes, "a shoo-in").

Right now it's all about the dress. "It's a ton of pressure," she says. "I'm hoping to be wearing some couture something. But I want to get my body tight. I should head to the gym and do the rest of my interviews on the elliptical!"

Her celebration is going to be its own workout. "I'm going to a Justin Timberlake concert tonight! I'm going to dance, jump around and sing Justin Timberlake songs all night long."

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