"The arts have always been a huge part of my life," says Ana Ortiz, the host of Art to Heart. This rising young star of stage and television-one of the leading actors in ABC's hit comedy series Ugly Betty-discovered her own passion for performing while growing up in Manhattan.
"I started ballet lessons when I was 5 years old and spent my childhood dreaming about becoming a ballerina," says Ortiz, who continued to dance through her early teens. "When I was in junior high school, I began singing and soon realized that it was a lot less painful than being en pointe." With her newly realized gift for singing, Ortiz was accepted into the La Guardia High School of the Performing Arts as a voice major. "I was very open to try everything from dancing to singing to acting. I didn't want to limit myself," she says. "I didn't necessarily have aspirations for becoming a rock star, although that does sound kind of fun now."
After graduating from high school, Ortiz moved to Philadelphia, where she studied theater at the University of the Arts. In addition to earning her bachelor's degree, she began accumulating stage credits. "Philadelphia was a great place for me to start since I was practically the only Puerto Rican actress in the city, and a lot of people wanted to cast me in their productions," Ortiz says proudly. She made her professional stage debut as Cecile in Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Philadelphia Repertory Theater before conquering major roles in regional theater productions of Hamlet, House of Bernarde Albe, Tartuffe, The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, The Dog Lady & the Cuban Swimmer, and References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot.
Another highlight for Ortiz at the time was portraying Chrissy in a European tour of the hit musical Hair. "Getting paid to travel the world was an amazing experience," she recalls.
Upon graduation, Ortiz returned to New York and joined the Labyrinth Theater, where she delivered bravura performances in the critically acclaimed play In Arabia We'd All Be Kings. Her critically acclaimed theater performances landed her a guest-starring role on ABC's popular television series NYPD Blue. Ortiz moved to Los Angeles, where other roles quickly followed, including guest-starring roles on WB's Greetings from Tucson, CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond, and NBC's ER. She had a recurring role on the hit ABC drama Boston Legal before being chosen to play Hilda Suarez on the comedy series Ugly Betty.
In her free time, Ortiz enjoys hiking, kickboxing, and flying back to New York to visit her family. She also loves singing backup in her friends' bands and seeing as much theater as possible. "I love live theater, and I'm still in the discovery stage for film and television," says Ortiz, who feels blessed to be a part of all media. "Acting-what is there not to like?"