Jessica Ortiz, also known as JessVal Ortiz on social media, has amassed almost 7 million TikTok followers through her comedic sketches. Ortiz recalls her first viral video on the platform, “The first time I went viral was back when making fun of Debby Ryan was a trend. I have a very animated face and felt like I could use that to my advantage. I made the video one night, went to bed, and woke up the next morning to 600,000 views.”

Like many others, Ortiz downloaded the app during quarantine and while finishing her senior year studying theatre at Penn State. “My senior year of college was rough. I felt very overlooked.” She explains that on top of the pandemic, another challenge was dealing with favoritism from the staff. “There were definitely people getting particular opportunities and others were left out. I was one of the people left out and I was like ‘are you kidding me?’ I was getting jobs in the summertime and thought my professors would see that and be like ‘you’re doing amazing,’ but were still giving these opportunities to the other people.”

Even though she’s become quite popular on TikTok, Ortiz still gets her fair share of hate comments. “I get a lot of comments that are like ‘I can’t stand this girl’s facial expressions’ and ‘she infuriates me.’ I know my area of comedy doesn’t resonate with everyone. I know people will probably look at my videos sometimes and they’ll laugh at me, not with me. But that’s out of my control, how could I be mad at that?”

Ortiz shared that she handles the comments well though. “I just have to laugh at it. I’m just being myself, doing my thing, and that’s all I can do. You can be the absolute nicest, sweetest, most amazing person. Not everyone’s going to like you.”

Hate comments aren’t the first time she’s had to deal with negativity from others. Ortiz opened up about the bullying she experienced in high school as well. “When you’re 15-18 you’ll do whatever you can to fit in and I tried as much as I could. People would tell me to my face that I’m weird and they don’t get me. Any kind of outlet they could find to get under my skin just because I wanted to be an actor.”

At the same time, she was managing insecurities stemming from body shaming. “I definitely got a lot of body shaming comments about how I needed to lose weight and get a breast reduction, which I did do. I got a breast reduction at the age of 16 because I thought that it would help me become more confident in myself.” She continues, “When I was performing in a show, someone told me I look way too fat to be on stage. That was definitely hard to hear because that was something I was already self conscious about.”

Nowadays, Ortiz still somewhat struggles with body image, but says it’s gotten a lot better over the years. “As I get older it gets better because I know I’m a voluptuous woman and I need to embrace that.” She adds that her platform has actually helped her with this too. “This is the beauty of TikTok–no one has ever said anything about my body. Not once have I ever come across a comment like that.”

Ortiz looks towards the app to help further her acting career, as many others have too. “Addison Rae started on TikTok and she just starred in her own Netflix movie. So of course it’s making those kinds of moves for a lot of people and I think it’s only going to continue in that direction.”

Ortiz is motivated by being her most authentic self and seeing how well it works on the app. “I’m really happy I have a platform where I can be my silly self. Emma Chamberlain made a living off of being Emma Chamberlain and that’s something that I really strive for. People can watch my videos and feel comfort and happy and I’m so grateful I have that as my job.”

It’s no doubt that after all of the challenges she faced in the past, her success comes from being herself. “I’m an actress and I do theatre and if you don’t like it or don’t get it that’s not gonna stop me. It’s funny because now I see they still follow me on Instagram. I hope they’re shocked seeing where I was in high school and where I am now, and that they’re like ‘oh that weird girl I picked on in high school, she’s doing things now.’”

We look forward to seeing what Ortiz has in store as she continues in her acting career. Click here to watch her full interview.