Introduce yourself! Who are you?
My name is Valery Ortiz and I’m a Puerto Rican actress and author living in Los Angeles. I’m a fur mommy, daughter, little sister, cousin, honorary “Titi”, girlfriend, best friend, TV mom, etc!
Did you always know that you wanted to be an actress?
I definitely always knew I wanted to perform. My first love was dance! I got a scholarship to take different dance classes at Southern Ballet Theatre in Orlando, Fl. when I was about 10 years old. At home, my older brother Hector was the one who helped grow my acting bug. He always “produced” little home videos/movies and my family and I would be his muse. That’s how we stayed entertained growing up! Hector auditioned for the Dr. Phillips Theatre Magnet program in High School so of course, as his little sister, I wanted to go there too! The magnet program was where I truly fell in love for the art and started to learn more about the business side of this career.
Were you scared to start the process?
There’s always nerves but I have never been scared. It all happened so gradually that I didn’t have time to buy into any fears and talk myself out of it. That’s what kept me in LA! I came on a road trip and stayed because things started going so well. Had I actually planned to move 3,000 miles away from my family, it would have never happened! We’re all just so close it would’ve been too hard.
What is one thing no one really knows about you?
Hmm, I’d say they may not really know that I get social anxiety a lot more often than you’d think considering the career I’m in. Sometimes, it’s so debilitating I talk myself out of going to certain events or outings. I am aware of how irrational my feelings can be but I can’t always shake it. I’m such a people person, so when I start to get anxious I really do my best to fight it and push through some of those random fears.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
”Lo que es pa’ ti, es para’ ti!“ Translation, “What’s for you, is for you!” That’s something my mom has always told me. It definitely helps in an industry where you can feel rejected all the time. Because I truly believe that no one can take what’s already mine, I have a sense of peace (although it can still hurt!) when I don’t get roles I really wanted or life throws curve balls I wasn’t expecting!
What would you say to 16 year old you?
It’s not going to happen the way you think, but you’ll be really, really happy!
Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
I’m sure! Probably a lot more than I’m aware of. There are times when I have felt that doubt from family members/“friends” and it obviously stung and still affects me but again, I almost think without it, I wouldn’t be where I am. I just read a book that talked about the very seemingly negative things in life that propel certain people/personality types forward in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise gone without that urge to either prove people wrong or prove themselves right!
What message do you think every woman should hear?
You’re A LOT stronger than you think!! What very specifically empowered my life the most was living alone for several years. I grew up with an older brother, super strict parents, and moving across country and living alone in my late teens was probably something none of us expected to happen! Because of that very cultural way I was raised, I grew to be a very dependent young woman. I cared way too much what others thought, I couldn’t make a decision without asking someone else, “What do you think?!”, and not having my family around when things got tough took a while to get used to. But making the decision to officially move to LA and live alone was the best thing I could’ve ever done. I cried a lot, I was homesick, but I learned a lot of new things, I started making a career for myself and I found out that through heartbreak and rejection, celebrations and disappointments, I was okay! Alone! Don’t get me wrong, I still probably care too much what people think and I can’t go two days without talking to my mom on the phone but those years growing up and figuring this life out in LA on my own, definitely helped convince me I could overcome anything!
Have you always had confidence in yourself?
Absolutely not. Some days, I still don’t. To be honest, it’s something I’m consciously working on every day. I definitely wasn’t the girl the “cool guys” crushed on or girls wanted to be like back in school. I had a uníbrow, wasn’t allowed to shave my legs, cut my hair, wear makeup or colored nail polish, go out without my brother, etc. I thankfully grew out of my own ugly duckling stage (as we all do!) but I’m still very much that insecure, self conscious girl at times. Then again there are days I have some good hair and makeup, and bomb lighting and I look in the mirror and feel like J-Lo! Haha! It changes on the daily! I’ve come really far but like I said, I have to practice that positive self talk often! I can’t wait to see what 50 year old Val will feel like! I’ll be on top of this world!!
What do you love most about yourself?
My culture!!! I am a very proud Puerto Rican! I love our people, our roots, our food, our music, our language, our love for family! I love all of our traditions and stories! I love that it’s a part of my story.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
The hardest time in my life to date was about six years ago when I was going through a divorce from my high school sweetheart and my time on the series, “Hit the Floor” simultaneously ended. If you know me, you know I am not a quitter and I give things everything I have, until I have nothing left. This was the first time in my life that I felt like I had failed. My divorce on the surface specifically made me feel like yet another Hollywood stereotype. These things that I thought identified me; actress, wife, caretaker, etc, were no more. And then add the “care too much what people think” character trait and I was a basket of sad, helpless emotions. No one I knew my age, personally, could relate. So there I was. Starting life again like I had done in 2014. In LA, no job, alone, chasing these crazy dreams. But this time, my carefree joy and that teenage confidence was long gone and my self worth was the darkest it had ever been.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
I am stronger than I give myself credit for and people mistake kindness for weakness – often. There were so many superficial things I thought were giving me joy but I found so much happiness and worthiness within myself. I was always so used to thinking I needed other people around to make me happy but I realized I really liked hanging out with myself! Those first few years living alone as a young woman prepped me for the next stage in my life where I then found myself once again. This second time an incredibly strong, resilient, independent, forgiving woman. I love this version of me. I am beyond thankful for the lessons and the growth!
How do you manage your work-life balance?
It’s not easy so I survive by making ‘To Do’ lists!! Honestly, if I don’t write it down I will more than likely forget! If its extra chaotic or I’m working out of town, I even write down my catch ups with friends! That felt gross even writing but it’s what works for me and how I am able to balance it all. I will also add, Amazon Prime and grocery pickup are my life savers!!
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
Workout and set goals. I literally have to have goals to keep me going. It can be a big challenge like a marathon or triathlon, or something like, make paleo chocolate chip cookies this week! Big or small, constantly giving myself things to look forward to, keep me going!
Do you have a mentor? If so, what did they teach you?
I’d say my mom is my biggest mentor and my manager Sheila has also taught me a lot about staying positive during difficult times. These two woman are both super heroes and angels in one body. They have both, albeit differently, gone through some difficult times and yet have shown me what it really means to be strong and tenacious and when it’s okay to be vulnerable and forgiving. I’m pretty lucky.
If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
Something with kids! Maybe a teacher or working with special needs children. Sometimes I wish I would’ve explored the athlete in me when I was much younger. I discovered my love for fitness later in life and realized I’m pretty athletic! I made 6th place in my age group for my very first Triathlon and was just less than two minutes from finishing my first marathon under four hours. I really surprised myself! I love a good physical challenge and I have most recently found my healthy competitive side in CrossFit.
Actress Valery Ortiz can currently be seen starring in the Disney Channel live-action comedy series “Gabby Duran and the Unsittables” as ‘Dina Duran’. In addition, Valery will be releasing her first book in her bilingual children’s book series “Hola! Hello!” called ‘Coqui’ in December 2019.