Claudette Ortiz is an inspiration to anyone who's been through faith-rattling circumstances. After reaching musical heights as one-third of the Grammy-nominated R&B/hip-hop group City High ("What Would You Do," "Caramel"), the singer fell on hard times after the group disbanded, but she's now picking up the pieces and aggressively moving forward. She tells her story of failed marriage, abuse, and single motherhood as a part of the stage production, Not Your Mama's Monologues, as will be shown on TV One's "R&B Divas: LA." But during her chat with Singersroom, what was evident is the songbird's inner-strength, which has carried her to this new chapter in her life where genuine happiness has found her. She now calls Los Angeles her home, and with new music and acting opportunities awaiting, Ms. Ortiz is bound for the spotlight once again.
Singersroom: How are you and your family adjusting to life in Los Angeles?
Claudette Ortiz: My children adjusted very well. As a mom, I’m still trying to maintain things and make sure that it stays that way, so it’s still a little bit of a struggle but it’s way better than what it used to be, and I’m very thankful.
Singersroom: How have your experiences being at the top of the music game in City High and your personal struggles made you stronger?
Ortiz: I was a little girl when City High came out and I wasn’t really aware of the success that we had because we were working during that time a lot, and we had no cell phones or anything like that, so we were just working; I didn’t know if we were doing well or not. But I had just started my adulthood at that time so from 18, 19, 20, those three years of being in the business, it felt like forever and I learned a lot. And I had my first child at 21, and from then until now, I’ve been married, divorced, I’ve tried all kinds of different things; tried to start my own businesses, real estate and all kinds of things like that; gained friends, lost friends. I went through anything that anyone in their twenties would go through as well as have my struggles and had people talk about me and been scrutinized over the internet, so it definitely has made me stronger.
Singersroom: Has the “Not Your Mama’s Monologues” debuted yet?
Ortiz: Yeah, we performed it and filmed it already; you know they have to edit and fit it into a one hour episode.
Singersroom: Has the process been therapeutic for you?
Ortiz: While I was doing it I didn’t think it was, but after I performed it I did get a little emotional and it did end up being therapeutic.
Singersroom: What can you tell us about the new music you’re working on?
Ortiz: I’m doing a lot of stuff, just trying to find the direction of the music that we’re going for. I’m always working on songs, there’s always stuff on Youtube, but right now, for the more recent stuff, we’re just trying to find the sound.
Singersroom: Can you dish a little on the direction you’re going in?
Ortiz: I have a lot to say, so lyrically there’s gonna be some love songs, but also things to help people when they need something during a struggle to let out some emotion. As far as music, the sound of it, I would say it’s very R&B, you’re gonna have some heavy drums in there, very melodic, and maybe a little later on I’ll start on some pop things, but right now, what’s coming out is very R&B, a lot of singing, plenty of instruments.
Singersroom: What artists out right now are you digging?
Ortiz: I like a lot of artists right now. I’m feeling all the new hip-hop stuff; I like Emeli Sande. I like Cee-Lo Green, and of course I like the new Justin Timberlake album, so I’ve been listening to a lot of different stuff.
Singersroom: Who would you like to work with?
Ortiz: I don’t know, that would be a long list (laughs). But we could say my dream team would be Cee-Lo Green and Timbaland. And that was before Justin Timberlake’s album came out, I’ve been saying that for a long time (laughs).
Singersroom: If you could have been born to certain era in music, which would it be and why?
Ortiz: I really like the era of music I was born in, I like being an 80s/90s baby, I really enjoyed it. But if I really had to choose, I guess I say the 60s.
Singersroom: Like the Motown sound and the Stax Records sound?
Ortiz: Yeah, I grew up on the Delfonics so I love that sound, I used to open up for the Delfonics when I was a teenager.
Singersroom: On the show, you mentioned you’re getting into acting/theater? Have acting projects lined up?
Ortiz: I’ve had a couple of offers, a few pilot ideas for different movies and shows they’re coming out with. I’ve been reading scripts, but nothing set in stone just yet.
Singersroom: The other ladies pegged you as the “baby diva” of the group. Do you consider them mentors?
Ortiz: Yeah, I’ve learned a lot from all the ladies, I really have. They’re amazing and talented, and I definitely ask questions, cause there’s always room to learn, so I took that opportunity definitely.
Singersroom: Who are you closest with in the R&B Divas: LA cast?
Ortiz: You know what? People ask me that all the time, I guess it’s hard to say. I spent more time with Chante Moore and Lil Mo, but then I end up saying Dawn and Michel’le (laughs), but I guess you can say those two, but I really enjoyed all the ladies, I got close with all of them.
Singersroom: In the latest episode, viewers witnesses the ladies beginning to rehearse for the monologues and it started out shaky. Did that worry you?
Ortiz: No, because I just came out of tough times in my life so those problems were minor to me. I didn’t like that the ladies were uncomfortable and that there was some confusion going on, but at the same time, I felt like you know, let's figure it out and not fight about it cause there’s no solution; let’s just execute what we planned on doing. We had to do the monologues for the show as well. If we don’t do the monologues, then what are they gonna film? What’s the plot of the show? So we had to do it regardless, so it was like, let’s just fix it. I wasn’t getting all upset about anything, cause from the problems that I came from recently, it just wasn’t a big deal to me.
Singersroom: Is it a challenge to live your life so publicly on “LA Divas” after being low key for so long?
Ortiz: No, cause they really didn’t capture everything (laughs), but it was scary getting into it, I was a little nervous about it because I have children and it was a choice I had to make for them and I didn’t wanna overexpose them if later on, they’d be like, ‘mom, why’d you do that?’ Don’t know if they would want that or not, so that was a little scary. But as far as myself, I’m an open book and people be in my business anyway (laughs), so I was like whateva!
Singersroom: What other divas, dead or alive, do you draw inspiration from?
Ortiz: Oh man! Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Shirley Bassey, of course the late Whitney Houston, there’s so many artists, I don’t even know. Kiki Clark Sheard, the Clark Sisters, Faith Evans, and then of course, the ladies on the show, they inspire me.
Singersroom: On the show, you were shown in the studio playing the guitar, many people probably didn’t know that.
Ortiz: Yeah, I’m not a super musician, but I can play when I wanna sing. I’m self-taught. I haven’t had any schooling, or any kind of lessons, I kinda just picked it up.
Singersroom: Name one beauty item you swear by and can't live without.
Ortiz: Something to moisturize my lips, that’s a must! You can be fine, your teeth can be shiny, but if you got chappy lips, that is not cute! (laughs) But, something for my lips, maybe some mascara, and tinted moisturizer.