The military’s loss is reality TV’s gain. Former City High star Claudette Ortiz is now a cast member of TV One’s “R&B Divas: L.A.” but if not for fate, Ortiz may have been singing for the U.S. Air Force. While City High had two memorable hits in the 90’s with “Caramel” and “What Would You Do” the trio was plagued with problems including Claudette’s relationship with both of the group’s male members, Ryan Toby and Robbie Pardio. Although she dated Pardio well before the group hit, she was still blamed for the group’s breakup. Pardio appeared on the A&E show “Intervention” and blamed his problems with alcohol stemmed from his breakup with Ortiz. Ortiz ultimately married Toby and they had two kids, but after their divorce she found herself struggling to reboot her career. At one low point, she was applying for social services and her caseworker recognized her.
“R&B Divas: L.A.” was the break Ortiz was looking even if it meant moving herself and three kids across the country. Before that, she was seriously contemplating the U.S. Air Force Reserves. Now the youngest member of the “Divas” crew, Ortiz hopes her time on the show will help her revive her singing career. She has had some offers for film and music projects so it seems the Army will have to go on without her. We talked to her about life, love and her desire to make a comeback.
What has your experience been like on “R&B Divas” so far?
It’s very different from doing music and being on tour. It’s film, so there’s a call time and scenes and things like that but it’s definitely an amazing experience. I’ve learned a lot and my kids enjoy watching Mommy with cameras.
You were really young when you started with City High, just 17. Do you think you were too young for the harsh realities of the music business?
I think maybe if I had a little more guidance when I started I wouldn’t have been too young but I was out there by myself. I didn’t have my parents with me or nothing like that. My parents worked but when the opportunity came they let me do it because I’d always been independent. Everything was new. I wasn’t even an adult yet. Traveling and reading contracts and meeting with lawyers and executives was something that I wasn’t used to. It was the first time I had a job so I was definitely lost in the sauce at first.
Did you come out of the City High experience with any money? So many groups in that era ended up not making any money.
You’re not making money initially because when you are an artist first coming out a lot of things are promotional and you’re waiting for your album to be sold so you’re not making money initially. We did start making a little more money but certain ways the contracts were designed weren’t beneficial to us on the financial side. The money was the long-term money and I used that money to get into real estate and if I hadn’t I would have been broke from the beginning.
Was the lowest point for you having to go to social services for help?
That came from being married, I had three children, I got a divorce and my house was foreclosed. When we divorced, Ryan moved to the West Coast and I couldn’t work as much because it was just me taking care of my children. That’s what led me to that time in my life. It was definitely humbling and humiliating. I just tried to count my blessings and appreciate that me and my children were healthy and lean on my family and friends and prayer and that’s what got me through.