Dina Nina Martinez brings diversity to Madison comedy scene
October 13, 2015
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Dina Nina Martinez sweeps through the cafe like a force of nature, smiling warmly at the barista.
“How are you?” she asks with an emphasis on the word “you,” her cat eye sunglasses nestled into the black bandana wrapped around her head like headband. The barista is pleased to see Martinez, displaying an enthusiastic smile in return and they chat for a bit, Martinez laughing loudly from time to time.
Sitting at a table, pouring over the contents on the screen of a laptop decorated with a Tardis and a Dalek – iconic symbols from the sci-fi television show Doctor Who, she has her serious business side as well. Martinez is a woman with a goal and that is to be as visible as possible. Visibility is a powerful thing for this transgender comic, recently voted Madison’s favorite comedian by “Isthmus” readers.
“It’s groundbreaking for me personally, but I feel like it’s groundbreaking for my community and for Madison.”
Transgender actress LaVerne Cox, from Orange is the New Black, says, “Visibility is a form of activism.” and Martinez agrees, citing Cox’s words as an inspiration.
“There’s so much truth in that and I’m visible. And I’m proud of who I am. Just being me, just telling my stories. That’s activism,” said Martinez.
Hailing from Texas, Martinez has been in Madison for just a couple of years, but she’s already left her mark on the city by starting Madison’s first and only LGBTQ comedy show called Alphabet Soup.
“It’s not only LGBTQ, it’s LGBTQ and allies. It’s bridging us all together and telling our stories in a place where queer audiences can come and not be afraid of being singled out and spoken about inappropriately,” said Martinez.
Martinez goes on to explain that she hears from queer audiences a lot that going to comedy clubs can result in being picked on, especially by cisgender heterosexual males.
“My comedy doesn’t come from that place. I’ll make fun of myself, I’ll talk to people in the audience, but that’s not the crux of what I do,” said Martinez.
The work Martinez does for the LGBTQ community doesn’t stop there. She’s written a Web series called, The Misadventures of Delilah James and has been filming it on location here in Madison. She got the idea to write the show five years ago when she became fed up with the media portraying the transgender community as prostitutes, showgirls, or dead prostitutes.
“I didn’t see myself, I didn’t see a depiction of who I am,” said Martinez.
Misadventures centers around Delilah James, a successful thirty-something event planner living in Chicago trying to make sense of love.
“She’s just trying to maneuver through the dating world, like all of us women who are single, trying to maneuver through that and all the obstacles and, oh yeah, She’s transgender,” said Martinez.
Martinez says that it’s important for Delilah’s gender identity and sexuality to be a secondary part of a larger story that’s really about being the woman Delilah wants to be, holding down the career she built herself and wrangling in the rag-tag team of employees that now make up her extended family. It’s a very different depiction of what people are used to seeing in the media and Martinez is proud of that.
“When you see marginalized people depicted on film and in media in a way they haven’t been portrayed before, in a way that is that’s kind of truer, I feel like it rings better in our being when we see something like that,” said Martinez.
For Martinez, that’s the most important thing of all, depicting the transgender community exactly as they are: human beings.
Perhaps this is why Madison voted her “favorite.”