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Meet Vivian Martinez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vivian Martinez.

Vivian, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in L.A. by UCLA engineers who loved the B-52’s. If this doesn’t begin to explain who I am, nothing will. My mother is Jewish and my father is Catholic, so when we were born we became Unitarian as a compromise… which is why I’m a Native American Church / Satanist now. I was raised in a beautiful garden of diversity and it made me who I am now. My family always put a strong importance on togetherness, plus, “it takes a village” so when I say we grew up in L.A. I really mean all over L.A. County. Until the age of nine, I lived a block away from Redondo Beach, on a hill; when the smog lifts you can see Griffith park. When my parents got divorced my older brother, little sister and I began moving from home to home, living with my Abuelos in Carson, staying in Silverlake sometimes with my Grandparents, even Chula Vista for a while my father’s company moved there. I never felt truly grounded until I got my own place in Silverlake after college.

I wanted to get away from California for College, so I went as far away as I could. “I was like ‘Get me OUTTA here!’ so I picked the furthest place away… New Hampshire. As soon as I got there, I was like “Oh no. Get me outta HERE!” but it was good to be on my own at a small school. As a freshman, I was the only one to get into the Main Stage play with all the seniors. I played the comedic relief in Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party,” an amazingly dada play which solidified the tiny amount of self-esteem I had coming out of highschool. I finally started thinking “I’m funny.” I never really looked at it as a personality trait; being funny, to me, was a way to stay alive. I never saw it as a positive quality, only as my pointed shield. I flourished at the small school, albeit slowly. Im either WAY too fast at things, or way too slow. The only good timing I have in my life is with comedy, that’s why everything thing else is so wonky.

It took years. and I’m even still learning to love myself but moving away helped. Studying abroad my senior year in London, man that really made me who I am today. I had access to the best Theater teacher slash guidance Counselor ever. She actually encouraged me when I was in a place to be molded. Someone believing in me got me straight A’s that semester, which later when I graduated put me on the Dean’s list and yeah, I graduated cum laude. Google it. SO London changed my life, also because I discovered adderall there, which I blame those rich white kids for! One time I wrote a 14-page paper instead of a four-page one and the whole class got mad at me at the refectory the next day. This is why I don’t take adderall a lot now, even though I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Which makes a lot of sense looking back…

The reason I was at that school btw, was scholarships. My family was comfortably lower middles class most of my life and slowly moved to upper-middle class, i.e., I played clarinet… but also ate cheerios everyday for two years. So I try to appreciate my privileges while knowing that others grew up with far more. One of the kids I went to school with that semester was a prince lol… wtf. Anyway, I checked off all the things a woman does in college drugs, sex (I am queer but I identify as female fluidish? honestly a much larger question), art and assault. Like most woman I have been sexually assaulted, I was just lucky enough to survive mine… but I did lose my virginity to my rapist- something that is so precious and delicate I still struggle to talk about it now. But I survived, and I don’t let it mark who I am.

When I started focusing on comedy, it was with an understanding that “I’m supposed to be helping people with my words because others’ have helped me with theirs” All I cared about was comedy. All I wanted to do was make people happy, but I’m now only realizing that… that’s because I FULL ON didn’t love myself…. and I’m still learning. But that’s all I’m trying to do with my comedy now. Use the only good timing and luck I have, to give others joy like I want to have.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I was born with eczema which around puberty, spread across my body like a disease spreads through crops. It happens to about 5% of people with eczema. SO I was really lucky, I guess. I gained weight, I was given steroids, I spent nights in the hospital, alone. I was bullied, I grew depressed and developed an OCD called trichitillomania and began pulling all my hair out. Yet I managed to have some fake friends because I found through my fight to survive… that I was funny. So yeah, I used it to get people to like me – it was both a carrot and a stick. Like most comedians, I developed it as a defense mechanism… but in my case, it was also for my survival. Eventually, I started participating more in drama and choir and school musicals and plays. I began to lose weight and my hair began to grow back; I was looking more “normal” than ever… but I was still 220 pounds and covered in eczema.
The eczema was the worst. And it still is, I still have it today. Most people think it means I had like bad acne… but it was more like having to peel my clothes off at the end of every day because my open wounds had healed through the clothes I wore to school. I missed so much school I failed a math class that I was getting an A in.

My teachers often sent me home not knowing what was wrong with me. I still feel the shame from that… and now knowing that it was only hives and not contagious makes me more mad that other kids are probably being shamed for their own skin conditions.

I also still deal with my trichitillomania and a new (fun!) one, BDD which came from me forming an identity of myself when I was 220lbs. I literally cannot tell you what I look like physically. One time a friend came over and we were totally just playing dress up and she put a goodwill dress on and then was like, “oh man my boobs are too small, you try this one” and I was like oh no that’ll never fit… but I tried it on after she forced me to… I still believed it wouldn’t fit… and it did fit… and my brain was so confused I ended up blacking out and fainting a little bit. Haha… so yeah, I have a lot to work on brain-wise.

Other issues I struggled with early on is “who am I?” being Latina and Jewish, and white(?), and Russian and Mexican and indigenous and and and… it’s exhausting for a kid. Everyone I grew up with was at MOST two things, but I was like 6! AND I thought girls were pretty…. like… what is going on?! I was mostly confused growing up because I had (and still have) Z-E-R-0 representation in the world. I remember asking my Abuelita once if I could by a black baby doll… “this one is me right Abuelita?” she said with a huge sigh “m’ija we aren’t black…. there are not lil Mexican girl dolls like you I’m sorry m’ija” so we went to Mexican markets and bought lil corn husk dolls instead. But then I was made fun of for not speaking Spanish well enough…

So I basically grew up with no solid footing, not in my identity, not in my home… nowhere… I think it makes me strong… but also weak sometimes because I struggle with who I am….. like most indigenous or displaced people do. In fact, mi Abuelita was born in Santa Ana… but during the repatriation act 1929 – 1936, she and her family were forced to “go back to Mexico” even though they were Spanish. SO I recognize that also being Jewish, I have generational trauma here. But I think it’s cool to be so many things. I’m the great granddaughter of Yaqui Indians… but I’m also related to Benedict Arnold lolololol isn’t that nuts?

Also, I suppose graduating in the worst recession (2007) and now losing my entire career in 2020 is another example of my life’s “bad timing” – and truly a struggle.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I have my own show, whch has survived many tragedies and is still afloat during pandemic. It’s called The Vivian Show: Starring Other People But Mostly Vivian love making my own TV show. It’s the first Monday of every month on Youtube and Twitch (soon!) It’s a variety talk show where I play an asshole talk show host. It’s fun, I interview artists like Chloe Fineman and Ify Nwadiwe. I do all the production for it long with a small team who I love! I don’t think there is anyone in the world making a show like me, and I know everyone who has a show says that, but I invite you to watch me host. I truly enjoy hosting. I enjoy and appreciate many forms of creative expression and many different creative fields and art forms. This allows me to be the best interviewer I can be because I can really talk to anyone about anything. Honest. Try me. Yes, even that extremely niche subject you’ve never heard of.

Also, the fact that my life’s perspective is so fresh and unique is exactly what sets the show apart, I pour myself into the show, like perfectly smooth icing on top a cake. And the cake is actually good and has real carrots in it. I come correct hosting, during stand up and in all aspects of my life.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I was dealt a crap hand…. but honestly, that depends on how you look at it. Did I struggle growing up, yeah… did it make me a cool person…? Fuck yeah. Did my illness stunt my emotional growth? For sure! But did it make me a better person later in life? A kinder more empathetic human? You bet! All I would change is the ability for my conscious self to accept who I was growing up, so I could begin to love myself sooner.

It was bad luck that I never got the opportunity to do that. It’s bad luck that I was so sick I couldn’t enjoy a real college and high school experience. Was it bad luck I was bullied? But was it good luck that I have a supportive family? I dunno… but I guess I consider myself pretty lucky. Was it luck that I was born in Los Angeles, one of the greatest cities in the world with one of the richest histories? I dunno. But like I said. I recognize my luck as privileges I have. I can breathe, I’m white passing, I can walk, I can talk, my mother supported me through my sickness no matter what… all in all, I’m pretty fortunate.

But truly, I think to be me is to deal with equal amounts of bad and good luck at all times. It’s a balance, like Magick [sic]. Luck is like karma to me… and like my Papá always said, “you gotta put IN to the bank of karma if you are gonna try and make a deposit later.”

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Image Credit:

Lee Jameson, Robie Zee

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