Amber Riley is known by millions of fans for her stint on the popular series Glee. She rose to stardom playing the talented Mercedes Jones. She was born with a strong and undeniable vocal ability which lead her to audition for American Idol. But the singer was turned down when she was 17 years old but thankfully her life would turn around for ever just years later.
February 15 1986 Amber Patrice Riley was born in Los Angeles California. She grew up in a middle class family as the only child. Her mother Tiny Hightower was an Registered Nurse and her father Elwin Riley worked as a carpenter. Growing up Amber listened to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston and would mimic their singing style while she sang for her family members during Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. At 7 her mom bought her a portable radio with a microphone attached. Riley carried that everywhere with her including to school in her backpack. She excelled academically at La Mirada High School graduating in 2004 with a 3.9 GPA. But despite getting accepted into NYU, USC and Arizona State Amber Riley stayed in Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting or music.
While auditioning for parts in Hollywood she found it very difficult. As an African American woman and size 16 it was almost impossible for Riley to get an acting job. The only roles she was offered was playing the girl who sat in the corner and ate all day or the girl who committed suicide. Amber has stated that she knew herself worth and never wanted to play a character that hated herself.
“My parents always instilled knowing that your beautiful, that your fearfully and wonderfully made, and that you know who you are.”
In 2006, Riley auditioned for the part of Effie White in Dreamgirls, yet was refused because of her age. But surprisingly she sang a Dreamgirls song for her Glee audition in front of producer Ryan Murphy. It was successful and she debuted in the pilot in 2009. Since then Riley has sung many solos and her Glee covers have been sold on iTunes. In 2012 after three seasons on Glee her character Mercedes graduated and Riley went to do Broadway. She made her stage debut in 2012 in the stage production Cotton Club. Cotton Club Parade is a Broadway-style revue celebrating Duke Ellington’s years at the famed Harlem nightclub in the 1920s and ‘30s.
In 2012 she started dating co-star LaMarcus Tinker who was also in Friday Night Lights.
In 2013 she was announced as the newest cast member of Dancing With The Stars season 17.