By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
SOMERVILLE – Born Victor Campisi, as Vic Clay he met success as an actor, but life has been tougher in the last six years since she came out as Tori Clay. “My agent dumped me. I had 90 credits as Vic Clay and have had two as Tori Clay over the past four-and-a-half-years,” she said. “No one has the need to hire a transgender actress with a male voice,” Clay explained. “And especially if she is not young and beautiful with great hair. And then you toss into the mix the fact that I am so hard of hearing that I wear hearing aids.”
On the positive side, Clay said, “I am the first transgender female art model in the world to be signed to an agency contract. I posed for artists. I am also a graphic artist that has had a gallery show, a published author, and an activist for transgender rights.”
First name change
As for the original name change, “One day that name came to me out of the blue. I was watching a play and it turned out that I was sitting next to the playwright. I said my name was Vic Clay, and he said, ‘That’s an amazing name for an actor,’ ” said Clay.
“I have done pretty much everything above and below the line. I have packaged top-lined features, directed, produced, written, shot, coached privately, coached on set, performed stunts, stunt driving, precision driving, combat, stand-up and improv comedy, sang, and danced. I had a hit commercial on ESPN,” said Clay.
“No one has ever doubted my talent as an actor. I worked with A-list stars, interacting with them, having my own trailer on the set, and getting pranked by them and pranking them back,” Clay recalled.
One of Clay’s acting highlights was playing an incarcerated child molester in the film “What Doesn’t Kill You.”
“When my cell doors opened, Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo were standing there menacingly, and we had an argument. Then they came in my cell and beat me,” said Clay.
Enter Tori Clay
The pandemic has made it even harder for Clay as Tori to find roles. The LGBT production company Quarantine Players’ Facebook page includes some of her recent work. “In a real heart-tugging tearjerker called ‘30 Deep,’ I played a Vietnam vet from Texas,” noted Clay. This past year, “I had a principal role in a short film called ‘Stuffed,’ ” said Clay.
Along with becoming an actor, growing up, Clay had dreamed of playing tennis and the guitar. As Vic and Tori, he and she have done both. Both Vic and Tori have played competitive tennis at clubs throughout the Boston area. Her game has been sidelined over the past few years by a rotator cuff injury. As for guitar, recently Clay started playing at open mics and is now getting paid for gigs.
“I spent most of my life thinking that I was a normal straight guy who liked to cross dress,” Clay reflected. “I started vacillating between that and feeling like there was a woman who I needed to let out. I thought maybe I was lying to myself for most of my life. I realized I had the ability to live my life the way I was meant to live it.”
She had the financing and psychological documents ready for gender reassignment surgery but used up the funds taking care of her elderly mother. “I kept putting it off and I lost the psychological moment.” Clay said. “I wondered if it was what I wanted to do.”
Now, out of desperation to get roles, Clay said, “I told all the local casting people that I am willing to work and audition anywhere along the gender spectrum.”