One of Tacoma’s favorite daughters, Vicci Martinez, might live in New York City, and jet set with the top ranks of entertainment, but she always packs some 253 love wherever she goes and feels no pressure to “represent” the City of Destiny since her pride in the city is so woven into who she is anyway.
“I’ve never felt any pressure because I literally am a Taco-Woman…I was born at Mary Bridge, and my mom was the first one to use the room I was born in…so I’m definitely an OG,” she said. “The thing about Tacoma is you should never have to feel pressure if you’re being yourself. You just have to be yourself! In any creative venture or any venture in this city, if it ain’t real or coming from the heart, you’re gonna get sniffed out real quick. Then you become ‘Tacoma’s Aroma!’ Hahaha. And that’s what makes me proud of being from Tacoma.”
Martinez started her career in music when she was still just 16. She would attend Stadium High School during the day and blast her high-energy, deeply lyrical shows around the region at night. She got her first taste of national attention when she won the regional tryouts for the premiere season of “American Idol” in 2003, but declined over contract restrictions to her music. She would then appear on “Star Search” later that year. She recorded her debut album in 2005, followed by a tour, documentary and concert DVD in 2006. Her career got another boost in 2011 when she competed in the televised singing show, “The Voice” in 2011 that led to a parade of television appearances and performances alongside Annie Lennox, Jonny Lang, Brandi Carlile, Syl Johnson and BB King. Then came her longer-than-projected stint on the Netflix original series, “Orange is the New Black,” when she played the brutal, all-business prison drug runner, Daddy. Her portrayal not only led to the rewriting of the show to enlarge her role, but sparked a love of acting and calls for other roles.
“It was such an honor to be a part of that show since I had been a fan from the very beginning, but when I got brutally murdered. I mean, when the show ended…hahaha, I felt like, ‘Dang, I was just getting the hang of this!’ So I definitely knew that was only the start of this new venture for me,” she said. “I also got a call from the producers before I got the script about my death, and they wanted me to know that it was only for the storyline, and to remember that I had only been asked to do three episodes max when they initially sought me ought. It was ‘my talent’ that made them rewrite a lot of season six, including my very own back story! Season 6, Episode 6, in case you haven’t seen it. (Shameless plug!) Anyway, hearing that from them and knowing all the talent they have worked with was extremely encouraging and really sealed the deal for me.”
Martinez didn’t just catch the acting bug on the OITNB set, but she came down with a case of love fever when she fell in love with cast member Emily Tarver, who played a corrections officer. The duo started dating after the season wrap party in New York. Cast members came out to one of Martinez’s concerts that included a duet with Tarver.
“After that performance, Emily and I began writing music together…and falling in love,” Martinez said. “I have always loved the Johnny and June story, and had dreams of one day finding my June, and there she was, an inmate and a CO…perfect match! For the last two years, Emily and I have been asked to play many events in and around New York. We have done commercials together, and have written songs for some of them too. We’ve even been offered a record deal. To me though, it has to feel right before I get in a studio, and I still feel I’m in the developing stages of what I want that next album to be.”
But fear not, whenever the next album drops, it will carry a bit of Tacoma Pride.
“Anywhere I go, I take that with me – be myself, and I thank Tacoma for letting me be just that,” Martinez said. “This town will support the crap out of you…if you let them, and only if you return that support! There’s so much love in Tacoma in my opinion, you just gotta give it before you can see it by putting in the hours and work.”
She’s got it. Come show her some Tacoma love at her concert at Alma Mater on March 22.