Bryan Bedder/Getty
Kathy Ehrich Dowd
April 16, 2015 12:15 PM

When Allure approached Laverne Cox about doing a nude photo shoot for its May issue, the Orange Is the New Black actress became uncharacteristically shy.

“I said no initially, thought about it, and said no again,” she tells the magazine. “But I’m a black transgender woman. I felt this could be really powerful for the communities that I represent.”

Indeed it is.

The tasteful black-and-white shot has Cox, 30, baring almost all – and joining stars including Jordana Brewster and Sandrine Holt for the photo spread, which includes the women talking frankly about their bodies.

Cox, who was recently cast as a transgender attorney for a CBS pilot, also tells the magazine she hopes her self-love image encourages other trans and black women to embrace their bodies too.

“Going through life, you try to cover and hide, but it doesn’t really work,” she says.

“Black women are not often told that we’re beautiful unless we align with certain standards,” she continues. “Trans women certainly are not told we’re beautiful. Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about herself might be inspiring to some other folks. There’s beauty in the things we think are imperfect. That sounds very cliché, but it’s true.”

Laverne Cox
Courtesy Allure

Yet Cox, who was just named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, said that beyond posing to send a message, she decided to participate for a more personal reason: to please herself.

“I honestly just want to make myself happy most, and if other people like it, then that’s great,” she says. “If they don’t, then I’m still happy.”

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