From the hood to Hollywood
Sunset Park native J.W. Cortes has come a long way. Having grown up in the neighborhood during the middle of the 80s crack epidemic, the ex-Marine now stars in the NBC reality show, Stars Earn Stripes, which just finished its first season on September 3.
My parents tried their best to provide and keep us out of trouble, Cortes recalled. Eventually I found myself at a crossroads and what came out of that was my great escape into the Marine Corps. It was my way out of a really bad situation.
Cortes said his biggest influence was his Puerto Rican-born mother. She reminded me that I could do so much more with myself, he said, noting that he joined the Marines in 1993.
Cortes spent a total of 13 years with the Marines, traveling the world and being blown away by the other side of life. But after he was nearly killed by a scud missile attack in Iraq in 2003, he decided he wanted a change.