Brooklyn, ten years ago, an 8-year old Puerto Rican girl was determined to make it. She penned a song called “Shine Like Me,” that became her first step towards a singing career that she would ultimately pursue. Jeannie Ortega had to travel through serious hardships before reaching her ultimate destination. “I went through a lot of depression in my youth. I didn’t have a walk in the park childhood. It was rough. I was just a little girl, but I felt like I had so much responsibility.”
Growing up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York, Jeannie’s upbringing was quite a contrast from that of TV’s The O.C.. “I saw friends get shot and chased by the cops. “Things like that affected me, and I had to deal with all this at a young age,” she confesses. With nowhere to turn, Jeannie found solace in music. “I just listened to music, and it changed my world. It took me out of my mind state into another realm,” she explains.
Music opened up a whole new world for Jeannie Ortega, a girl who followed Hip-Hop and R&B music, but had a pop appeal to her. And whenever she wanted to escape from her not-so-pleasant environment, she listened to artists who sang things she could feel. “One day, I was listening to Mariah Carey and that experience changed a lot for me. Her words and emotions really spoke to me and I hope I can make that same kind of sincere impact on someone else’s life with my music,” says Jeannie.
As a member of the first graduating class of Brooklyn’s High School of The Arts, Ortega is a natural at performing. With years of practice under her belt, she is the total package: singer, songwriter, dancer, and more. In her youth, Jeannie performed at local parks (as “Spice,” one half of a kiddie singing group she called “Sugar & Spice”), in front of her kindergarten class, and numerous times throughout her school years. When her voice became popular in the neighborhood and people started to seriously take notice, Jeannie decided to go full speed ahead and focus on her dream. “I was ready and jumped in feet first,” she says of the opportunity she was not going to miss.
Now19-years old, the Bushwick, Brooklyn-native has much to be thankful for. After her first real recording “Got What It Takes” wound up on the soundtrack and in the movie Love Don’t Cost A Thing, Jeannie inked a major recording deal with Hollywood Records and is now prepared to release her debut album, aptly titled No Place Like Brooklyn.
Eager to share her talent, Jeannie wrote 11 of the 12 songs on the album. “I just write about what I feel. A lot of people can relate to this stuff, not just people my age. I think we all go through similar situations. We feel like we don’t know who we are. We fall in love, we fall outta love. Everybody goes through love,” says Jeannie, who—despite her tender age—has a wealth of life experiences to share.
In her first single, “Crowded,” Jeannie masterfully delivers the message that she won’t be the “girl on the side” and takes her power back. “Crowded” features a guest appearance by Papoose. “So Done” produced by Soul Shock & Karlin the production duo who have been behind hits for Whitney Houston, Monica, JoJo and American Idol’s Fantasia to name a few, is about a relationship gone sour. “I was in a relationship and when it ended, I was heartbroken,” Jeannie says sincerely. But with such a promising career ahead of her, Jeannie has learned to take her heartache and turn it into future hit records. Learning from her mistakes, she changes her tune on “What I Need,” where she uses the same situation as a storyline, and lays down what she’s looking for in that special somebody. Other standouts on the album are “It’s R Time” featuring N.O.R.E., Gemstar and Big Mato ; “Crowded” produced by Stargate and featuring hip hops big buzz artist of the moment Papoose; In addition, to “Can U” featuring Quan which showcases Jeannie’s naughty side as she invites a guy over while her parents are away.
In addition to pouring her heart out on the tracks, Ortega’s warm personality shines through her music. Drawing from musical influences in Hip-Hop, R&B, and pop music, Jeannie categorizes herself as a “Hip-Pop” artist. And with a unique look and sound that is street-inspired, yet still commercially viable, this feisty Latina on the come-up has drawn comparisons to none other than Jennifer Lopez. “J-Lo put us Latinas on the map. She made people look at Puerto Rican women differently. And in that respect, I look up to her.”
To be so young, Jeannie has overcome much to get to where she is going. And on the road to stardom, the Hollywood Records’ artist knows she’s got to have tough skin to survive her most challenging trip yet. “Everything that I went through has made me a stronger person and prepared me for this business. I want people to be encouraged by that and say ‘look where she came from and look at her now, just because she believed in herself.’ ”