Written by Hayley Turner
Vicci Martinez entered this world with a smile on her face.
“My mom said when I was born, I came out smiling,” she recalls. “I would wake up in the morning and just be staring at my mom and dad in the crib with a big old smile on my face like I was somebody who’s excited to be awake.”
And honestly, Vicci has a lot to smile about. She’s a talented singer/musician who competed on the TV show The Voice in 2011, placing third overall that season. She signed a record deal and released an album the following year. In 2015, she self-released her own album, I Am Vicci Martinez. And then in 2018, she shifted gears a bit and tried her hand at acting, landing a starring role as inmate “Daddy” on the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black.
“It was different because when you’re the singer of the band, you can just do things on a whim,” she said. “But with acting, it’s not that way – I have to be prepared and do my homework and not be out partying the night before.”
Fortunately for us, Vicci had time to talk to us about her thoughts on comfort, comfort zones, and getting out of hers. She was recently in Seattle with girlfriend Emily Tarver, her co-star on OINTB and one-half of their singing duo. We got Vicci to open up about her sensitive side, her struggle with her religion growing up, and how she learned to get comfortable in her own skin.
What words would you use to define yourself?
I’m definitely…dominant – I have a lot of passion. I’m talented. I’m excited about life.
Are there ways you consider yourself undefinable?
Growing up, I was always asked if I was a boy. And as I’ve gotten older people expect me to be very masculine. And I am, but I’m also very girly. Not like, putting on makeup or dresses, but just inside – I really care about people and I care about people finding their own natural talent. Also, I’ll try to act like something doesn’t hurt my feelings, and then I get home to Emily and bawl my eyes out. Because I’m feeling all the emotions.
What is something you do every day that’s just for you?
Smoke weed! I’ll do whatever I need to do to get to a place where I’m relaxed. I can smoke weed or take CBD because it’s legal. If I need a cigarette, I’m going to smoke one – because I can. I don’t hide things anymore. I’ve dealt with that guilt of doing what I need to get me going or make me calm. I was raised Jehovah’s Witness so there’s a lot of stuff… when I came out to my parents, I didn’t even want to hold my girlfriend’s hand, for fear of somebody from my church seeing me. But now at the end of the day, if anyone wants to judge me or they don’t want to be my friend, then that sucks for them.
How has art shaped your identity?
Art is such a freeing experience, but it’s a very vulnerable thing. It’s scary…I want to keep evolving, so the more I can learn [from my life] and express it artistically, the better my life is all around. I feel my whole life is pleasure and fun – it’s just what I tried to make it. My religion told me to struggle, struggle, struggle, and then be rewarded with paradise, but what if I tried to live in my paradise now? I have to be happy in order to make the people around me happy and make the things we work on be a lovely rainbow.
What kind of things make you the most comfortable?
It’s always about a vibe – the energy around any situation I’m in. I can be home by myself but if I don’t have a good vibe I can’t enjoy myself. I’m very sensitive to other people’s energy. If I’m not comfortable inside, then I need to go be around people who will let me speak my truth.
What makes you uncomfortable in a good way?
If I can’t do something, I just won’t do it. P!nk said that when you start to feel uncomfortable, that’s where you need to be. It was uncomfortable to be on live TV because “I can’t mess up,” but I knew I could mess up. With acting, I didn’t want to put a bad vibe on set and waste people’s time. Those are the things that can get my nerves going but it makes me have to be prepared and do the homework – it’s not all about you.
When was the last time you got out of your comfort zone?
Emily and I went to the Hudson Valley Detention Center last Thursday and spent time talking to ICE detainees. The part that was uncomfortable for me was feeling like I couldn’t do anything…to truly comfort that person. They don’t want to be in there, but they need money or legal representation. They’re counting on folks like us to bring attention to their cause. It was eye-opening and wonderful to see that they didn’t care that we were actors or musicians. They were excited we took the time and that they had someone to talk to for 30 minutes. One woman we met – the first thing she said to me was, “What a beautiful smile. If you keep smiling at people like that, it’s enough.”
What was your favorite part of our loungewear shoot?
Everyone had a great time on set. We were there to just enjoy ourselves. Once everyone knew that we wanted to relax, chill, and have fun, they did the same. I have issues about showing my body – and not because of the religious way I was brought up. We weren’t allowed to wear short-shorts, until my parents realized I was a tomboy, and then they didn’t want me wearing too big of shorts – you know what I mean? But I’m 35, my cholesterol is high, I’m not going to the gym every day…Getting naked is hard for me, but that’s what [TomboyX] is about – being comfortable in your own skin. I’ve learned a lot from working with [TomboyX] about being comfortable with my body. If I’m going to promote it, then I have to do it.
What is your favorite TomboyX product – something that makes you feel “you”?
Sweatshirts! I get to cover up. (laughs) It’s comfortable and I like the casual stuff. I’m not the girl that wears undies and has pillow fights. I wear basketball shorts and tank tops for lingerie.
Why did you decide to partner with us?
When TomboyX reached out last year for the fashion show, it was like, “What? A brand named Tomboy – which is what I was called my whole life and…made fun of for? Now they want me to walk their runway at New York Fashion Week? Hell yeah!”
I was actually scared to do the runway because I was going to be in underwear, but Emily, you know, she’s my rock. She’s everybody’s rock. Having her there with me kept me from bailing. When I got there and saw how different everybody was, looking at their confidence inspired me. It’s helped me evolve emotionally.
We’re so glad we could inspire Vicci to get comfy in her own skin and help her realize how truly beautiful she is. Look for Vicci and her girlfriend Emily this month in The Classics!
To learn more about Freedom for Immigrants and the valuable work they are doing for the over 50,000 children and adults in immigrant jails and prisons, please visit their website.