Vicci Martinez is one of a rare breed: an out lesbian on a high-profile reality singing competition on a broadcast network. The Seattle-based singer-songwriter walked away from an invitation to Hollywood during Season 1 of Fox’s American Idol and now finds herself in front of America on NBC’s The Voice. The out singer is one of four out gay contestants vying for the record contract that comes with winning the competition, where Martinez found herself part of Cee Lo Green’s team after wowing the show’s coaches including Christina Aguilera.
AfterEllen.com caught up with Martinez to discuss being out on primetime, the Blake Shelton/GLAAD flap and why she turned down from Idol.
AfterEllen.com: What do you think of the Blake Shelton’s tweet that drew GLAAD’s ire?
Vicci Martinez: The thing about Twitter is it’s right there with you; when you have a thought it catches you in the moment. You’re not really able to think about things. I think if he would’ve had a little bit of time to think about it, he wouldn’t have been like that. He seems like an OK guy and maybe somebody that just didn’t think too much about it.
I don’t think he really feels this way at all. One of the guys on his team, Tyler Robinson, is actually gay.
AE: How did you end up on The Voice?
VM: (NBC producers) came to Seattle and had a public audition and a scout for NBC from Seattle that knew that I had said no to going on American Idol because of the contract and terms and because they wanted, right away, to change me. They were like, “You need to look more like a rock star.” That was 10 years ago. So when they came here, he approached my manager about me auditioning.
AE: When you say that Idol wanted to change you, did they want you to hide your sexuality?
VM: I’m not going to hide it. I’ve been very public about it and I’ve had people say, “Well, why don’t you just keep them guessing? You can hit all the markets.” No. Especially if you’re with somebody; it’s so disrespectful. It was hard for me coming out to my parents and for me, I’ve already gone through that hurdle and I’m not going to go through it again.
AE: It’s was great seeing you and your girlfriend, Kate, backstage after your audition. Did you discuss being out on the show with her ahead of time?
VM: We didn’t even need to discuss it. That was something that she knew when we got together; I’m very public about it. She comes to my shows, she helps me sell my merchandise. There was no question. Even with the producers at the show, with some of the interviews I was doing when anyone would ask me about Kate. Everyone was so supportive.
AE: Have you had an opportunity to chat with any of the other gay contestants on the show about the experience?
VM: Oh, my God, Yes. There were a few more gay contestants what actually auditioned who weren’t shown. The show is great; in the past, I felt a little bit not outcast, but just like, “Oh, yeah, they keep the gay ones together.” Here we have four of us and it’s not like we’re together as the gay contestants singing out together. It’s like everyone is just spread out. Everyone loves each other on the show.
AE: That visibility is unparalleled, especially if you compare The Voice to American Idol. You have four openly gay contestants versus in 10 seasons of Idol it seems like you always had to wait until after the season ended for someone to come out.
VM: Yeah, totally.
AE: What do you think the difference here is?
VM: I would have to say The Voice — the crew, the production and everyone — just being so comfortable with me and everyone being comfortable with who they are. The concept of the show is being exactly who you are, especially with your look, because the whole thing with blind auditions is they don’t get to see you.
Just like you were saying, if Blake Shelton had anything against gay people and he wasn’t able to see Tyler and pick Tyler and love Tyler. The producers want you to be who you are and because for a lot of us, I feel have not been able to get further in the industry because of how we look and where we stand. The labels, they already have somebody in mind that they want to get to the top of the charts. I think this show is the total opposite of that.
AE: Then, in terms of your coach selection, you picked Cee Lo Green over Christina Aguilera, who you bowed before after your “Rolling in the Deep” performance. What was behind that decision?
VM: I felt Cee Lo was the better fit for me because of what he said that he felt that I was singing from my heart. My choice was definitely the right choice for me and I knew that Christina’s team was going be full of amazing singers. It’s pretty bizarre how great the team is.
AE: Going forward, what can we expect to see during the Battle Round?
VM: The Battle Round is very intense. I mean, I was up and down wondering if I’m going home, wondering if I’m staying. I know that either way, whoever goes, whoever stays, we do survive because it’s really good. One of the things that somebody said was whoever goes home, half of America’s going to be pissed that you’re not on the show and half of America is going to be OK with the decision, so just know that you’ve all ready won.
For more on Vicci Martinez, visit viccimartinez.com. The Voice airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.