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Comedian, Radio Personality, Tattoo Artist
ABOUT: “I kind of jump around when I talk... not literally!” warns Kenny Ortega with a laugh. He may not jump when he speaks, but Ortega certainly leaps from one art form to another. The comedian, radio personality, and tattoo artist is a genuine Renaissance man, and one who was born, raised, and now working in El Barrio at that. Ortega’s comedy is mostly comprised of tales of his family and his upbringing in the neighborhood. “I tell stories about being in the house, its influence on me... my [one] brother has no teeth, my [other brother] has 9 fingers, and you ask why am I doing comedy?” However, in addition to serving as his comedic inspiration, his family and neighborhood are his most unyielding source of support. “When I have a big show, I have to buy new sneakers," Ortega explains. “I put my brother’s name under the tongue on one, and my dad’s on the other, and I think, you have to walk me through this.” When he is not touring as a comedian, Ortega works on his radio show “One to Cuatro.” In a new partnership with Spanish Harlem’s Exotic Fragrances, Ortega has recently launched a perfume by the same name.
COMMUNITY VISIONS: Ortega hopes that the artistic community in East Harlem will grow more supportive. “In El Barrio it’s hard, because everyone in El Barrio is famous,” he laughs. “Everyone is their own, they have their own grandstand.” Ortega would like to see more cooperation and a more palpable sense of community emerge among El Barrio’s artists. “It’s all about making money first and then they build the relationship... you’ve got to build the relationships first.” In fact, he muses, “that would make the world so much better-- not just East Harlem.”
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