Amber Riley

Amber Riley Headshot

Actress • Singer

Birth Name: Amber Patrice Riley

Birth Date: February 15, 1986

Age: 38 years old

Birth Place: Los Angeles, California

With a voice that refused to be silenced and a talent too big to be ignored, there was no doubt that Amber Riley was destined to be a star. Television viewers were blown away with her portrayal of the feisty Mercedes Jones on the hit show "Glee" (Fox, 2009 -15), a wickedly funny and endearing series from "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-10) creator Ryan Murphy about a group of talented misfits who populate the struggling glee club. Riley revealed her inner diva as Jones, the sassy, loud and take-charge alto who has a crush on the club's ultra-fashionable member who also happens to be a gay man. The show's humorous sub-plots and extravagant musical performances brought Riley's commanding voice to the forefront, making her a standout in the show every time she belted out a number and left the rest of the cast in her wake.

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, 2003-10). 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. While continung to star in "Glee," Riley was cast in the 17th season of the popular reality competition "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC 2005- ). She and her partner Derek Hough went on to win the competition.

Credits

Single Black Female 2: Simone's RevengeStream

Actor
Simone
Movie
2024

Single Black Female 2: Simone's RevengeStream

Executive Producer
Movie
2024

Dick Van Dyke: 98 Years of MagicStream

Music Performer
Special
2023

Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream Exclusive

Guest
Show
2023

Mamma Mia! I Have A Dream

Judge
Show
2023

The Wheel

Guest
Game Show
2022

That's My Jam

Contestant
Show
2022

The Black Beauty Effect

Self
Show
2022

The Jennifer Hudson ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2022

Access Daily With Mario & Kit

Guest
Show
2022

7th Annual Black Music Honors

Music Performer
Show
2022

Step Into…The Movies with Derek and Julianne HoughStream

Self
Special
2022

Single Black FemaleStream

Actor
Simone
Movie
2022

WICKED in Concert

Music Performer
Special
2021

Celebrity Wheel of FortuneStream

Guest
Game Show
2021

Celebrity Name That TuneStream

Guest
Series
2021

Christmas Déjà VuStream

Actor
Kandi
Movie
2021

GMA3: What You Need to Know

Guest
Show
2020

Floored

Judge
Show
2020

The Disney Family Singalong

Music Performer
Special
2020

Infamous

Actor
Elle
Movie
2020

Access Daily

Guest
Show
2019

Tamron Hall

Guest
Talk
2019

National Memorial Day Concert

Music Performer
Show
2019

Today With Hoda & Jenna

Guest
Show
2019

Nobody's FoolStream

Actor
Kalli
Movie
2018
25%

Drop the MicStream

Contestant
Reality
2017

Let It Shine

Judge
Show
2017

McDonalds 365 Black Awards 2016

Host
Show
2016

The Preachers

Music Performer
Show
2016

A Capitol Fourth

Music Performer
Show
2016

The Wiz Live!Stream

Actor
Addaperle
Special
2015

The Making of the Wiz Live!

Actor
Addaperle
Show
2015

Crazy Ex-GirlfriendStream

Guest Star
Series
2015
98%

Celebrity Family FeudStream

Guest
Game Show
2015

My One Christmas WishStream

Actor
Jackie Turner
Movie
2015

The Meredith Vieira Show

Guest
Talk
2014

22nd Annual Trumpet Awards

Music Performer
Show
2014

The Queen Latifah Show

Guest
Talk
2013

The Queen Latifah Show

Music Performer
Talk
2013

The Arsenio Hall Show

Guest
Show
2013

Whose Line Is It Anyway?Stream

Guest
Series
2013

The Real

Guest
Talk
2013

Hollywood Game Night

Guest
Game Show
2013

The Ricki Lake Show

Guest
Talk
2012

Doc McStuffinsStream

Music Performer
Series
2012

Dish Nation

Guest
Talk
2011

Glee the Concert Movie

Actor
Mercedes
Movie
2011

Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade

Music Performer
Show
2010

Access Hollywood Live

Guest
Show
2010

Lopez Tonight

Guest
Show
2009

GleeStream

Actor
Mercedes Jones
Series
2009
70%

GleeStream

Guest Star
Mercedes Jones
Series
2009
70%

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

Guest
Talk
2009

The Bonnie Hunt Show

Guest
Talk
2008

The Wendy Williams Show

Guest
Talk
2008

The Graham Norton ShowStream

Music Performer
Talk
2007

Rachael Ray ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2006

Entertainment Tonight Canada

Guest
Show
2005

Dancing With the StarsStream

Contestant
Reality
2005

Dancing With the StarsStream

Music Performer
Reality
2005

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Guest
Talk
2003

Jimmy Kimmel Live!Stream

Music Performer
Talk
2003

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross

Guest
Show
2001

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross

Self
Show
2001

In Performance at The White House

Music Performer
Special
1998

Access HollywoodStream

Guest
News
1996

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno

Guest
Talk
1992

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno

Music Performer
Talk
1992

The SimpsonsStream

Guest Voice
Herself
Series
1989
85%

Good Morning America

Guest
News
1975

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