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Only One Thing Gave Singer Lasting Fulfillment

“My dream that I had as a little girl to be a famous singer had come true. I was living the dream,” says Jeannie.

In 2006, at the age of 19, Jeannie Ortega’s song, “Crowded,” hit the billboard charts. Later that year, her album reached number one. The pop star from Brooklyn seemed to have it all. However, beneath the surface, there was darkness she could not escape.

At five years old, Jeannie began experiencing night terrors. Her family practiced witchcraft and decided to baptize Jeannie into Santeria against her will.

“She put a cigar in her mouth backwards and blew the cigar smoke all over my body,” says Jeannie. “And she's just chanting as part of this ritual. I felt very uncomfortable.”

Jeannie recalls a chaotic home life and continual darkness. At the age of seven, she thought about ending her life.

“One day I was in the tub, and my mom's razor blades were there, and I just felt this sense, like I should just grab them and cut myself and it would be over, and all the chaos would stop, and all the darkness would go away,” she says. “I don't know why I had hope. There was this deep-rooted hope that there would be better, that there was more to life than what I was experiencing.”

That same year, Jeannie’s parents gave her a gift that would change her life.

“I got my first karaoke machine and it was also the time, in midst of all these suicidal thoughts, that I realized the power of music.”

At thirteen, Jeannie’s voice captured the attention of a well-connected taxicab driver. “I'm in a New York City taxicab singing alone and the guy is like, ‘I know a famous manger,’ he's like, ‘I'll introduce you,’ Jeannie says. “And he was just like, ‘Wow, you have a beautiful voice, you're beautiful, you need to be a star.’ That's kind of how it really happened. That was my big break.”

Over the next three years, Jeannie was developed as an artist and at age sixteen, she signed her first record deal. Though stardom came with a price.

“We had photo shoots. I was a teenager and I was asked to dress provocatively and just – I was put in positions that I felt uncomfortable with.” Jeannie eventually embraced her “bad girl” image and began living it up as a star.

“I was at the top of the charts, touring, doing all these shows, getting all this money. I had never seen that kind of money in my life. That was all mine. And I was living the dream.” However, fame failed to satisfy and though she never practiced Santeria, that darkness from childhood returned.

“Nothing mattered,” she said. “I was still completely broken and empty, and I needed more. And I felt life is just – something isn't right. I now have everything that I ever wanted, I have influence, and I still don't want to be here. Those thoughts of suicide came back.”

That’s when a friend asked Jeannie a timely question. “And my friend just came up to me and asked like, ‘Do you need to go to church?’
I knew it was God! I knew she was sent to me. And I just gasped, ‘Yes, yes! How did you know?’ She invited me to a Christian church. It was my first time in a Christian church. So, I’m in this church and I'm looking at everyone, thinking that they're out of their minds because they're talking to God out loud. I thought they were crazy, but there was a holy envy that I had. I wanted that. I wanted to talk to God that freely. I wanted to cry and let it all out. And then the pastor invited me up to the altar. He didn’t say anything to me. He just walked by me, touched my shoulder. He must have been praying for the Lord to touch me. And immediately I dropped – I felt God. I felt His presence just overwhelm me. And I fell to my knees, and I began to weep and weep. But I knew it was God. And it was almost as if a surgery was taking place in my heart.”

Jeannie had given her heart to God, which caused conflict with her record label.

“I had never felt peace. And I started to feel peace. My label didn't sign a Christian artist. They signed a bad girl from Brooklyn. So, they didn't want to continue. I lost my record deal. My whole world came crashing down. The carpet that I was so busy flying on all those years was pulled out from under me. And it forced me to look up and ask God, ‘Wait, do you have a purpose for me? What do you think I should do now?’"

Over time, Jeannie found her purpose as a Christian recording artist, singing songs to the God who set her free from darkness. She ministers with her husband who is a pastor. Her desire is for others to know that God can rescue anyone.

“I don't talk the way I talked. I don't dress the way I dressed. There was always despair and hopelessness,” says Jeannie. “When you have Christ, He is victorious over any darkness. You're bulletproof. Greater is God that is in you than any demonic, any darkness, anything that's in this world. And that's how I live my life, and that's what I try to empower others to really accept, because it's ours. So with everything that I do, I do it to just bring glory to God. So many of us live as victims to the darkness when we don't realize that we've overcome because of Christ.”

(To read Jeannie's book, "What is Happening to Me," please click on the above book image.)

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