From Amazon Worker to 'Hawkeye' Star: How Alaqua Cox Beat the Odds to Become Marvel's Next Big Hero

The Native American actress, who stars opposite Jeremy Renner in the upcoming Disney+ series, overcame deafness and a right lower leg amputation on her journey to success

Just a few years ago, Alaqua Cox was working at an Amazon center, figuring out what she wanted in life. Acting was not on her radar.

"I had no acting experience," says Cox, 24, who is featured in PEOPLE's 2021 Ones to Watch package in this week's issue. "I was only involved in one school play in high school, but I was a background actor."

Then, some friends spotted a casting notice for a role in Disney+'s upcoming Marvel series Hawkeye. "They saw the casting call looking for a Native American actress and female deaf actress," recalls Cox. "It just matched so perfectly, so I decided to go for it."

Being a trailblazer, she's ready to be a role model for others. "I had never seen anybody on the screen that maybe looked like me ... deaf, an amputee," she says.

Cox, who has been deaf all of her life, grew up on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin. In addition, she has a prosthetic lower right leg — though it certainly hasn't slowed her down at all.

alaqua fox
Corina Marie Howell

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When she learned she nabbed the role of Maya Lopez, her parents were overjoyed. "My dad actually cried, and it is rare to see my dad cry," she says. "My mom got the champagne — everybody was so excited."

Her family and friends weren't the only ones happy with the casting. Twitter exploded, with stars like Nyle DiMarco applauding the news. "I just feel so overwhelmed by support and love," she says.

Like all upcoming Marvel projects, the details of Hawkeye are being kept under wraps. For now, all Cox can say is, "Maya is a bada-- woman. She can pick up fighting moves after watching it one time."

And Cox loved working with Jeremy Renner, who plays the Avenger Hawkeye. "I think he's one of the coolest guys," she says. "I learned a lot from him."

"It's crazy how much my life has already changed because I was a college dropout," she adds. "I worked at a factory. I'm so excited to show people who I am and what I can do, what anybody can do."

Hawkeye premieres Nov. 24 on Disney+.

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