About Amber Riley
A natural-born talent, Amber Patrice Riley started singing at two years old; barely one year into learning how to talk. Her mother signed Riley up for vocal lessons once she was old enough and it was during these sessions that the budding singer learned she possessed different tones to her voice that allowed her to sing different types of music. Ironically, her high school did not have a glee club, but that did not prevent Riley from pursuing her dreams of a singing career; instead, she sang in choir and did some studio work until the timing was right.
When she was 17, Riley took a big step by auditioning for the musical juggernaut "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ), one of the network's highest-rated reality competition series that had launched the singing careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry. While Riley performed better than most of the contestants, her efforts to sing in front of the tough panel were thwarted and she never even made it past the first round. In spite of the rejection, Riley persevered, soon landing a minor role on the comedy series "St. Sass" (WB, 2002), but the pilot was never picked up. Lucky for Riley, future "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy was also a writer on "St. Sass."
While "St. Sass" never made it to air, it was long enough for Riley to make a memorable impression on Murphy. Seven years later, Riley joined the cast of Murphy's latest creation after he made a name for himself with "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003- ). Riley may not have been cast as the female lead, but her character Mercedes Jones, often stole the show with her powerful voice and fiery personality. With Jones nursing a painful crush on the always impeccably dressed and obviously gay Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), a fellow glee clubber, the young star was pitch perfect as the student who never fails to say what is on her mind, yet never goes so far as to make audiences hate her. In the episode where Hummel breaks her heart by turning down her romance overtures, Mercedes single-handedly destroy Hummel's prized automobile with a crowbar while covering Jazmine Sullivan's 2008 hit, "Bust Your Window." The glossy hip-hop video-like production showcased not only Riley's amazing voice, but also proved how fluid of a dancer she was.
Riley was also very much involved in several causes dear to her heart. She was an outspoken role model to young girls about body image and weight issues. The full-figured actress often said in interviews that she was happy and confident about her size, and called on her young fans to feel the same. She also took part in VH1's Save the Music Foundation that used some of music's biggest names to promote music education in public schools. As one of the program's ambassadors, Riley, along with her "Glee" cast mates, used their clout to help students either create their own glee club programs or to push their school and parents to bring back music education.
The success of "Glee" was evident from day one, thanks to its amazing cast that sold audiences on its over-the-top renditions of monster hits such as Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" (1981), Kanye West's "Gold Digger" (2005) and show tunes like "Maybe This Time" from the stage version of "Cabaret" (1966). In fact, after "Glee" performed Journey's power ballad during its sneak peek episode, the song shot up to No. 1 on the iTunes download chart. Columbia Records quickly jumped on the bandwagon and released a series of soundtracks from the show. Glee: The Music, Volume 1 was released in November 2009 and featured the entire cast belting out the show's most memorable musical numbers, including Riley's version of "Bust Your Window." That same year, Riley's pipes knocked it out of the park when she led her cast mates in a performance of the National Anthem before Game 3 of the World Series in Philadelphia.
|La Mirada High School, La Mirada , California|
|Auditioned for Fox's "American Idol" at age 17; was rejected in the first round|
|Landed a minor role on the never aired pilot, "St. Sass" (WB)|
|Cast as Mercedes Jones, a fashion-conscious diva, in Fox's "Glee"|