Amber Riley

Amber Riley

Born Amber Patrice Riley
(1986-02-15) February 15, 1986
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Actress
  • singer
  • author
Years active 2002–present

Musical career

Genres Broadway, pop, R&B, gospel
Instruments Vocals
Labels RBMG

Amber Patrice Riley (born February 15, 1986) is an American actress, singer and author. She is best known for her portrayal of Mercedes Jones on the Fox comedy-drama series Glee (2009–15). For her performance on the series, she won a Screen Actors Guild Award, and has been nominated for three Teen Choice Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, and three Grammy Awards. In November 2016, Riley will begin portraying Effie White in the West End debut production of Dreamgirls.[1]

In 2013, Riley won season 17 of Dancing with the Stars.[2]

Early life

Riley was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Tiny (née Hightower) and Elwin Riley. She has two older sisters, Toyia and Ashley.[3] Riley auditioned for American Idol when she was 17 years old, during the show's second season, but was turned down by the producers.[4] She graduated from La Mirada High School in La Mirada, California in 2004.[5]


Acting and singing

Riley at a Toys for Tots event in December 2009

In 2008, Riley was cast in the role of Mercedes Jones on the comedy-drama television series Glee, and appeared as a main cast member for all six seasons.[6] Riley performed numerous solos throughout the series' run, including "Respect", "Bust Your Windows", "Hate on Me", "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", "Beautiful", "Bridge over Troubled Water", "I Look to You", "Ain't No Way", "Try a Little Tenderness", "Spotlight", "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and, three days after Whitney Houston's death, performed a tribute version of "I Will Always Love You". She also played Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the episode "The Rocky Horror Glee Show", singing the lead on the song "Sweet Transvestite" to generally positive reviews from critics.[7][8] For her role as Mercedes Jones, Riley won a Screen Actors Guild Award and received nominations for three NAACP Image Awards and three Teen Choice Awards.

In 2015, it was reported that Riley would star in a Christmas television film, her first movie role, and her first acting role, since Glee.[9] In December 2015, she portrayed Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, in NBC's live performance of The Wiz.[10]

Riley appeared at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, sang the national anthem at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and is currently working on a debut solo studio album.[11] She also co-wrote a track titled "Leave a Light On" for British group The Saturdays, which is featured on their album Living for the Weekend.[12] Riley's debut single, "Colorblind", premiered live on April 3, 2014, on The Queen Latifah Show. The song was written by Emeli Sandé, Claude Kelly and Steve Mac, and was released as a digital download on April 8, 2014.[13] The song was also performed by Riley on Glee. In February 2016, it was announced that Riley would portray the lead role of Effie White in Dreamgirls, at the Savoy Theatre in London's West End, beginning performances in November 2016.[14] Riley recorded a number of tracks for Todrick Hall's visual album Straight Outta Oz.[15]

Dancing with the Stars

In 2013, Riley won the seventeenth season of ABC's dancing competition Dancing with the Stars. She was partnered with the show's one and only six-time champion, Derek Hough.[16] Riley and Hough tied the record for highest first-week score of 27, received 5 perfect scores of 30, and only received a score lower than 8 one time. Riley is the first African-American woman to win Dancing With the Stars.

Week # Dance/song Judges' score Result
Inaba Goodman Tonioli
1 Cha-Cha-Cha/"Wings" 9 9 9 No Elimination
2 Jive/"Reet Petite" 8 8 8 Safe
3 Charleston/"Bang Bang" 8 8 8 Safe
4 Tango/"Love Lockdown" 9 91 9 Safe
5 Foxtrot/"Try a Little Tenderness" 9 7 10 Safe
6 Samba/"Get It Right"
Switch-Up Challenge
No Elimination
7 Paso Doble/"Diablo Rojo"
Group Dance Freestyle/"The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)"
8 Rumba/"If I Could Turn Back Time" 9 92 10 Safe (Immunity)
9 Quickstep/"That's It!"
Salsa (Trio challenge)3/"Que Viva la Vida"
Jazz/"Locked Out of Heaven"
Viennese Waltz/"Locked Out of Heaven" (Acoustic Version)
Charleston/"Bang Bang"
Samba relay/"No Scrubs"
Freestyle/"Can You Do This"
Quickstep & Samba Fusion/"(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" 10 10 10 Won
1In week four, judge Len Goodman was absent and guest judge Julianne Hough filled in for him.
2In week eight, judge Len Goodman was absent and guest judge Cher filled in for him.
3The dancer Hough and Riley chose for the Trio Challenge is Mark Ballas.
4Scores from guest judge Maksim Chmerkovskiy.


In January 2014, Riley and her sister Ashley launched a plus-size online clothing boutique, Rileyland Fashions. She also models the garments.[17]


In 2011, Riley acted as a campaign spokesperson for Do Something and VH1 Save The Music Foundation's second annual Battle for the Bands. Riley starred in a PSA campaign and engaged fans through social media to participate in the campaign that mobilized young people in the fight for keeping music education in schools.[18] Riley has also teamed up with State Farm's Celebrate My Drive campaign to advocate safe awareness for beginner drivers, and encouragement for youth.[19]


Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
2002 St. Sass Toby Unsold pilot
2009–15 Glee Mercedes Jones 93 episodes
2010 The Simpsons Aiesha (voice) Episode: "Elementary School Musical"
2011 Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Mercedes Jones Concert film
2013 Dancing with the Stars Herself / Contestant Season 17 winner
2014 Dancing with the Stars Herself / Performer Season 18, episode: "The Finals Award Show"
2015 My One Christmas Wish Jackie Turner Television film
The Wiz Live! Addaperle Television special
2016 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Dream Ghost #2 Episode: "Josh Has No Idea Where I Am!"


Year Title Role Location
2012 Cotton Club Parade Performer New York City Center, Off-Broadway
2016 Dreamgirls Effie White Savoy Theatre, West End



Year Title Peak chart positions Album
2014 "Colorblind" TBA
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Work Result
2010 Teen Choice Award for Choice TV: Female Scene Stealer Glee Nominated
Teen Choice Award for Choice Music: Group (shared with Glee cast) Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Won
2011 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Nominated
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
Teen Choice Award for Choice TV: Female Scene Stealer Nominated
2012 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Nominated
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated


  1. Snetiker, Marc (February 4, 2016). "Amber Riley to play Effie in West End Dreamgirls". Entertainment Weekly.
  2. "Amber Riley, Derek Hough win 'Dancing with the Stars'". Fox News. November 27, 2013.
  3. Ingrassia, Lisa (May 17, 2010). "Glee's Amber Riley: "I Love My Body"". People. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  4. "Glee Star Amber Riley On Idol Rejection: "I Still Work On Fox And Get Paid"". Access Hollywood. September 30, 2009. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  5. "Dish Of Salt: Glee Premiere Party, LA (September 8, 2009)". Access Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  6. "Glee Exclusive: 4 Original Cast Members Not Returning as Series Regulars for Season 5". TVLine. June 28, 2013.
  7. "TV Review: Glee – "The Rocky Horror Glee Show"". Blogcritics.
  8. "'Glee,' Season 2, Episode 5, 'Rocky Horror Glee Show': TV Recap". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  9. "'Glee's' Amber Riley to Star in Christmas TV Movie (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  10. Roots, Kimberly (August 6, 2015). "Glee's Amber Riley, OITNB's Uzo Aduba Join NBC's The Wiz Live". TVLine. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  11. "GLEEks! Kevin McHale & Amber Riley Are Guest Hosting AT40 This Weekend!". August 10, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  12. "Ascap Search Note: Type "Saturdays" under the performer field and click search". Ascap.
  13. "Glee's Amber Riley Premieres 'Colorblind'".
  14. Snetiker, Marc (February 4, 2016). "Amber Riley to play Effie in West End Dreamgirls". Entertainment Weekly.
  15. "Todrick Hall Is Straight Outta Oz In This Emotional, Star-Studded Visual Album Featuring Nicole Scherzinger, Perez Hilton, & More! Watch!". Retrieved July 1, 2016.
  16. Derschowitz, Jessica (September 4, 2013). ""Dancing with the Stars": Leah Remini, Valerie Harper, Snooki among new cast". CBS News.
  17. "Glee star Amber Riley launches online boutique with clothes from her own closet for her 'curvier fans'". Daily Mail. January 23, 2014.
  18. " and the VH1 Save The Music Foundation Announce Winners of the "Battle for the Bands"". PR Newswire. May 18, 2011.
  19. Detken, Rebecca (September 14, 2012). "'Glee's' Amber Riley: 'You can't complain about the things that are going on in the world if you haven't taken part'". Yahoo!.

External links

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