Born in Mexico City, Mexico on December 12, 1956, Ana Alicia became the third of four children to Carlos Celestino Ortiz and Alicia Torres Ortiz. She grew up in El Paso, Texas from age 6 after the passing of her father. There, she lived with her grandmother, widowed mother, her uncle Louie and three siblings in a house her father had purchased for her grandmother.
Ana Alicia received a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Upon arrival, Ana Alicia auditioned and won the lead role for Jules Feiffer's "Crawling Arnold". On summer break after her freshmen year, Ana Alicia auditioned for The Adobe Horseshoe Dinner Theatre outside El Paso, Texas. The theatre offered her a position as a recurring actress in all feature productions. The opportunity would allow her to work with name actors from Hollywood and New York and receive a large weekly salary. She accepted the offer and also acquired her actor's equity card through her term. She left Wellesley and finished her education at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Ana Alicia spent the next three years, performing in main stage productions at UTEP as well as having significant roles in the Adobe Horseshoe repertoire.
After graduation, Ana Alicia moved to Los Angeles and struggled to attain success as an actress while studying for her law school entrance exam. Six months later, her big acting break came when she won the role of Alicia Nieves on ABC's Ryan's Hope (1975). According to Ana Alicia, working on the show in New York was exciting - not only because it was an acting job, but because she was a fan of the the show. Although the role was a secondary one - Nieves had romances with policeman Bob Reid and Dr. Pat Ryan. It provided her with much-needed exposure.
After 15 months, Ana Alicia left the show to become one of the last Universal Studios contract players. She moved to Los Angeles and in addition to her work as a contract player, she attended Southwestern University Law School at night. As she acquired larger roles that required her to leave town, it became impossible to continue the grueling schedule of acting during the day and studying for school at night. She had to make a choice so she sat down and wrote the pros and cons of each decision and when she realized her passion was to act, she made the very difficult decision to drop out of law school. Once she was focused, her career began to open up quickly.
She landed several roles on major television films and series' episodes. Within a year, the Universal terminated their contract player department. It was the end of an era. Soon after, her teacher Milton Katselis suggested she stop playing virginal roles and turn to roles such as the tortured, sexually deprived Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". Exploring this previously undiscovered part of her acting range, Ana Alicia pursued an audition for Falcon Crest (1981). In the room was a female casting director Doris Sabbagh along with Earl Hamner, Robert McCollough, and Larry Elikann. Ana Alicia's job was to seduce Lorenzo, played in the room by Doris. As Ana Alicia ran her fingers up Doris' stockings, conservative Southerner Earl Hamner stood up and stopped the scene, and said, "Thank you very much. That was wonderful." Less than an hour later, Ana Alicia's agent called to let her know she had won the role of Melissa Agretti.