Defining Yourself with Emily Tarver

Written by Haley Turner

Actress/singer/comedian Emily Tarver really loves our new TomboyX loungewear pants.  

“They have pockets!” She exclaimed. “I need pockets. I gotta carry my Chapstick everywhere I go, even if it’s from the living room to the bathroom.”

Emily plays Correctional Officer Artesian McCullough on the hit Netflix show Orange is the New Black and we’re super-stoked to have her as a member of Team TomboyX. Emily walked the runway for us at dapperQ's NYFW 2018 queer fashion showcase, and now she’s lounging around wearing our latest looks in The Classics

We recently had a chance to talk with Emily when she was in Seattle with her girlfriend (and castmate/bandmate) Vicci Martinez. In our conversation, she reveals what does and doesn’t define her, how she likes to get comfortable, and why sometimes getting out of her comfort zone is a good thing. 

Using your own words, how would you define yourself?

At my best, I’m really brave. I become this leader who knows what to do and how to help people do what they want to do. On a day-to-day basis, I’m funny and positive. Passionate. Empathetic. Curious. Always learning. 

Are there ways you consider yourself undefinable? 

I think, because of my career, that other people think that I’m concerned about my outward appearance. I’m actually very low maintenance. I cut my own hair, I do my own make-up, I buy $4 clothes at TJ Maxx. Being put together and wearing a dress and heels makes me feel a little bit out of my skin. 

What is something you do every day that’s just for you?

I don’t really do a lot of stuff that’s just for me. But if I’m feeling low, I’ll take a shower and shave my legs and put lotion on. You know, self-care. I read a lot – especially the news. I like to educate myself about what’s going on and sometimes it makes me anxious and I have to put my spiritual energy towards healing that. Strangely enough, I’m comforted by horror movies. I watch them and it makes me think, “At least I’m not getting brutally murdered!” It gives me perspective. 

As someone who is a comedian, a singer and an actress, how has art shaped your identity?

My identity has shaped my art. My family is really funny, quick-witted and smart – so they helped create my sense of humor and comedic timing. I totally changed course in college to study comedy because that’s what I wanted to do. But my art has changed over the years with my identity. I started out doing comedy, but then I found my way into music. I followed what felt right at the time. 

What kind of things make you the most comfortable?

Lighting is very important to me. I have a bunch of different lamps with different light bulbs, and I can create a different lighting tableau based on my moods. I like being in the corner of my couch with my stuffed animals surrounding me. I love singing more than I like sitting listening to music, but I listen to music when I’m on the train. I don’t like reading on the train because I need to keep my eyes open. I like to have my head up and be present. 

When was the last time you got out of your comfort zone?

Well, Vicci and I visited the Hudson Valley Detention Center last Thursday and sat and talked with two ICE detainees. It was a really hard experience but I kept reminding myself that this isn’t hard and scary compared to what they’re going through. It was definitely out of my comfort zone but doing it created a new comfort zone. Next time I won’t be so anxious. 

When I first moved to New York City, I got a job in social work as a case manager working with parents of developmentally delayed children, and many were in dire situations. Most of these people just needed guidance and for someone to be aware of them and help them with paperwork. That’s how these ICE detainees are – they feel alone and they need help with the logistics of their situation. So Vicci and I are getting involved with this organization called Freedom for Immigrants. We’re going to tour a few detention centers in New York, New Jersey and Texas and then we’re going to do a big benefit in Los Angeles to raise money for this organization. 

What makes you uncomfortable but in a good way?

I have social anxiety really bad. Going to a party for work and interacting with people makes me nervous even though it always ends up okay. I just have to find my spot. I remind myself that this is part of the celebration of the hard work I’ve done and I should allow myself to enjoy it. 

Speaking of celebration, what did you think of the TomboyX shoot that you and Vicci were a part of this year?

It was really fun! Everyone was so nice and generous and made us feel comfortable. They even asked what part of us they could shoot and what not to shoot. I told them “no action shots of my butt!” Their whole attitude was simply, “be whatever you are, we love it.”

What is your favorite TomboyX product – something that makes you feel “you”?

My favorite thing is the MicroModal material – it’s so slinky. I like my little Rainbow Pride Stripes shorts and the Micromodal Sweethearts. I also like their new loungewear – the pants are tapered at the end like cool gym pants. 

Why did you decide to partner with us?

You know, there’s a ton of Photoshopping going on in the world today that I think is poisoning young people from thinking that they’re good enough and setting these impossible beauty standards. When we did the runway walk, the lineup of models was every shape and size and color and body type. Everybody that modeled was like, “Yeah this is me. Here we go!” 

As someone that grew up body-conscious, I love that TomboyX sees beauty in everyone and that they encourage people to be beautiful as they are, no matter what they look like. I think it’s super important to show people of all identities that we will make underwear for you because we think you should be seen.  

Vicci and I have become close friends with some of the employees there. They’ve been so encouraging to us – they are really great communicators and really compassionate in their products and the way they do business. 


We love you too, Emily! 

Keep an eye out for Emily Tarver and Vicci Martinez this fall in our Fall Basics Campaign.

To learn more about Freedom for Immigrants and the valuable work this organization is doing for the over 50,000 children and adults in immigrant jails and prisons, please visit their website.