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The Cincinnati Post

Onaney Headlines In Her Hometown

by Rick Bird

July 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

From Hartwell to Puerto Rico to Miami and back to Cincinnati. That's been the journey for Onaney, the 24-year-old Latina singer with a gorgeous voice and bubbly, powerful stage presence.

It is fitting that Onaney returns to her hometown Saturday to headline the first CincyLatino Fest.

"It's awesome to come back for something like this," Onaney said from her home in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "The reason I left (Cincinnati) was I was big into Latin music and wanted to come to Florida and really get closer to where the movement was."

Onaney (pronounced OH-nah-ney) was named after a Taino tribe princess by her father, Jerry Ortega, who read about the daughter of the chief in Puerto Rico, said to have greeted Columbus.

Ortega, a veteran singer on the Cincinnati Latino scene in the '80s and '90s, was serious about keeping his daughter in touch with her roots. When she was 6 the family moved back to Puerto Rico so she could be raised in her native heritage and language. Returning to Cincinnati in her teens, Onaney attended Hartwell Elementary and was home-schooled through high school. At 16 her dad heard her singing around the house one day.

"Jewel (in Mount Healthy) was the first studio I ever recorded in," Onaney said. "It was a birthday gift from my parents. They heard me singing and my father said, 'Let me get her some studio time and see how she does.' When I got in there I didn't want to leave. It was so cool."

By 17 her father was booking the teen at church festivals and such places as the Havana Martini Club, the Corinthian, and the Rhythm and Blues Cafe. Onaney was old enough to sing in clubs she couldn't get into.

"Exactly," she laughed. "You have to leave when you are done singing."

When her family moved to be closer to the Miami salsa music scene, things began to happen. Onaney landed a production deal with Larry Harlow, touring and performing with the noted New York salsa bandleader. Those contacts helped her land an understudy role in a touring production of "Selena Forever," a tribute to the murdered Latina pop star that toured Texas, the Southwest and Chicago.

While she performs often to solid reviews, backed by the 10- piece Miami Breeze, so far a national recording deal has eluded the singer.

"I've been working hard consistently and steadily," Onaney said, confident her career is still young.

She describes her style as a salsa-Latin fusion. "That's because I was born in Cincinnati and raised in Puerto Rico. I had all these different influences from merengue to pop. I always wanted to blend it. It's kind of salsa pop."

Onaney will flash her multicultural style at Saturday's festival singing in "Spanglish."

"It's a mixture because my crowds are mixed. Many of my songs begin in English and end in Spanish."

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