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From Penn State Grad To Online Sensation: Jess Val Ortiz Finds Success As TikTok Star

When Jess Val Ortiz originally envisioned her post-grad plans, she imagined moving to New York City to pursue a career on Broadway. But, like all of us, the coronavirus pandemic shifted her plans.

Searching for something to fill her quarantine boredom, she decided to download TikTok after many requests from her friends at Penn State. Fast forward many months later, Ortiz now boasts 1.6 million TikTok followers. Oh, and she only graduated in the spring of 2020. Casual!

Ortiz began making videos of her doing “mom skits” thinking that she’d be able to reach people because they’re relatable. Unfortunately, these videos didn’t take off as she hoped.

But before giving up completely, she decided to hop on the trend of making fun of old Debby Ryan clips. To her surprise this time, she woke up the next morning with more than 600,000 views on the video.


Y’all really die for Debby!! jessie #debbyryan #comedy #comedian #impersonation #fyp #foryoupage #foryou

♬ original sound – jessvalortiz

From there, Ortiz ran with the idea of reacting to other Disney Channel stars doing and saying cringy things or creating scenarios that were similar to those on Disney Channel. Because of that, it resulted in her gaining half a million followers within just a few months.

“I think that feels really cool because I always thought I was a little weird,” Ortiz said. “I always thought I was a little different, and I had a really particular sense of humor, and it’s cool to put that on my platform and have people be like, ‘Oh, you’re funny.'”

Thanks to her popularity, Ortiz has been able to make friends through TikTok and has racked up quite a few sponsorships, including some with Fab Fit Fun and Soda Stream.

“It’s actually really such an interesting and cool community how you can literally make business and friendship connections through the app,” she said.

Ortiz said that she had to take a bit of a step back from TikTok once she started her full-time job and moved out on her own, which also happened to be the same time her TikTok was taking off. Although she didn’t lose many followers, she wasn’t gaining the same amount of traffic to her account.

To increase her following, Ortiz now makes TikToks of her saying peoples’ names and telling them that if their name is said, they need to buy you Starbucks.


Reply to @jackjackthefrenchbulldog HAPPY SIPPIN! COUSIN EDITION!! 🥤✨❤ @starbucks #foryou #happysippin #fypシ

♬ original sound – jessvalortiz

Performing and creativity are definitely in Ortiz’s blood. During her time at Penn State, Ortiz majored in musical theatre. Aside from being hilarious, she’s got some serious pipes, as to be expected from someone who majored in musical theater.

She said that her time in Penn State’s musical theatre program allowed her to be her authentic self and that her professors saw her sense of humor and talent as an asset that set her apart.


##duet with @tylermcapa -lots of progress to be done on my end but I love it ##wicked ##musicaltheatre ##broadway ##singing ##foryou ##foryoupage

♬ original sound – Tyler Capa

“Being in the musical theatre program really allowed me to just express myself,” Ortiz said. “When I was in high school, I never felt like I could really express myself and be who I truly am, and I think that’s what was so great about Penn State is that no one. I never felt like judged by anyone. I never felt like being who I was was wrong or was a bad thing. People like that I was quirky and funny and different, and I loved that. I felt like my most self being at Penn State and being around my professors and my friends.”

Although Ortiz still has so much love for musical theater, she’s been rethinking her future career plans due to having a full-time job and being in a committed relationship.

“My view on the [theater] industry has changed a lot, especially since being in the pandemic for over a year,” Ortiz said. “I live on my own, I have a full-time job that pays me consistently. When you have a career in theatre, you’re always struggling to find the next job.”

As of now, Ortiz said that she is unsure of whether or not she wants to pursue TikTok full-time but is potentially the direction she wants to go into in terms of working in social media.

Although social media typically gets a bad rap just because of what it is, Ortiz believes that social media has become “our friend” and can be helpful in ways.

And her advice to anyone who wants to really make something of themself on social media? Don’t be afraid to take the first step and also learn how to market yourself really well.

“You know, us being in lockdown and not leaving our homes, everyone is literally behind their phone all the time,” she said. “If you want to take that step, do it. Get on, make a profile for yourself. I think it will do nothing but help you.”

Although Ortiz doesn’t know what’s necessarily next for her, it’s more than clear that she’ll be making herself a household name in whatever industry she chooses to pursue.

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Mackenzie is a senior majoring in English and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She is from Minersville, PA, and is always trying to explain exactly where that is. Send all compliments to [email protected] or @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.


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