People who knew Jeannie Ortega from the past would be quite surprised to see where she is now. The girl who used to practice witchcraft is now a devoted wife and Christian recording artist who has just debuted her first full-length studio album called "Love Changed Me."
Ortega had a rocky childhood. She dabbled in drugs and even contemplated suicide several times. But her true downward spiral began when she got involved in the religion called Santeria, which is a form of witchcraft that originated in Africa.
Through Santeria, Ortega conjured spirits through chanting and offering food and drink sacrifices. Even then, Ortega could feel Jesus tugging on her heartstrings, but she dismissed His calls.
"I could feel an internal battle within me. I felt like there was something that wanted to come in — [but] there was something in me that was fighting back. I didn't know that the Holy Spirit even existed, really. So I didn't know that it was God, but there was something in me fighting back," Ortega shared with The Christian Post.
When she turned 13, Ortega got her big break in the music industry. A cab driver was mesmerised by her voice and told her, "You have such a beautiful voice and you're beautiful. Do you have a demo? I can pass it along to somebody because I drive a limo and I ride a bunch of famous managers and people in the industry."
Ortega supplied him with a demo, and the rest was history. But even before she became famous, Ortega said she already came to know Christ. "In the midst of my first record coming out, it was before the Rihanna tour I believe, I was invited to a Christian church," she recalled.
The only catch was, Ortega wasn't ready to give up some aspects of her life. As a result, true peace evaded her. "I'm thinking like, 'Wow, here I am on course to fulfill my dream, I'm living the dream. But there's still no peace," she said. "It didn't matter that my dreams were coming true. It didn't matter that I was getting all this money. It didn't matter that I was getting all these amazing opportunities, because nothing changed."
Ortega still couldn't shake off thoughts of suicide, and she struggled with anger issues. Even though Ortega could go to church, she felt no real connection with it. So she cried out to God. The very next day, God answered by having her friend invite her to church.
"She invited me to this Christian church that she was going to. It was very Charismatic. I was the only light-skinned girl in the church. It was a Pentecostal church, and I looked around and I thought everyone was out of their mind," she said. "I thought they were crazy, but I envied them because they were so unashamed to talk openly to God and cry in front of people. I only cried to God in my shower when no one was looking. I would go in and cry out to God because I knew I needed God to be real."
During that visit, Ortega finally allowed the Holy Spirit to move inside her. All of a sudden, Ortega dropped to her knees, began to weep, and released all of the bitterness, pain and anger that she had bottled up over the years.
"I didn't know why I couldn't control what I felt and why I was crying, but I know it was God — beyond a shadow of a doubt I know it was God," she said.
Ortega then gave up her life as a pop star and used her talents to glorify God. "Love Changed Me" was released on November 1.