Amber Patrice Riley
February 15, 1986
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Partner(s)||DeSean Black (engaged)|
|Associated acts||Leading Ladies|
Amber Patrice Riley (born February 15, 1986), sometimes known mononymously as RILEY, is an American actress, singer, author, and activist. She is best known for her portrayal of Mercedes Jones on the Fox comedy-drama series Glee (2009–2015). 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 a Grammy Award.
In 2016, Riley originated the lead role of Effie White in the West End debut of Dreamgirls. She won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical and Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Musical Performance in 2017 for her work.
Riley won season 17 of Dancing with the Stars in 2013. In 2017, Riley appeared as a judge on BBC One musical theatre talent show Let It Shine and formed a musical theatre supergroup with Beverley Knight and Cassidy Janson, known collectively as Leading Ladies and signed to East West Records/Warner. Their debut album, Songs from the Stage, was released on November 17, 2017.
Riley was born in Los Angeles County, California, with a mother of the maiden name Hightower. She has two older sisters, Toiya and Ashley. Riley auditioned for American Idol when she was 17 years old, during the show's second season, but was turned down by the producers. She graduated from La Mirada High School in La Mirada, California in 2004.
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 but one of the six seasons—she received guest star credit during season 5. 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. 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.
Riley appeared at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and later sang the national anthem at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. 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. In January 2014, Riley and her sister Ashley launched a plus size online clothing boutique, Rileyland Fashions. She also models the garments. 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. It was expected to be the lead single off her debut album. The song was also performed by Riley on Glee. 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. In December 2015, she portrayed Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, in NBC's live performance of The Wiz. 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. Riley recorded a number of tracks for Todrick Hall's visual album Straight Outta Oz.[better source needed] Also in 2016 she performed the national anthem at the second game of the 2016 NHL Stadium Series featuring the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field.
In 2017, Riley teamed up with British singers Beverley Knight and Cassidy Janson to form a musical theatre supergroup, known collectively as the Leading Ladies. Their debut album, Songs from the Stage, was released on November 17, 2017 and features covers songs from Cats, Beautiful and Rent among others.
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. 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|
|5||Foxtrot/"Try a Little Tenderness"||9||7||10||Safe|
|6||Samba/"Get It Right"
|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)|
Salsa (Trio challenge)3/"Que Viva la Vida"
|Jazz/"Locked Out of Heaven"
Viennese Waltz/"Locked Out of Heaven" (Acoustic Version)
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.
On February 28, 2020 Riley confirmed she finished recording songs for her debut extended play. Following her Jimmy Kimmel Live! performance on August 28 it was announced her EP would be released on October 2. She later confirmed she would be performing under the name "Riley" (stylized in all caps as "RILEY") and released the single "A Moment" on September 4. "BGE" (initialism for big girl energy) was released as the second single from the EP on September 18, alongside its music video. The EP was released on October 2, 2020, featuring a total of six tracks. On October 8, 2020 she released a music video for the track "Creepin'".
|2002||St. Sass||Toby||Unsold pilot|
|2009–2015||Glee||Mercedes Jones||Main role (seasons 1—4, 6); Recurring role (season 5); 93 episodes|
|2010||The Simpsons||Aiesha (voice)||Episode: "Elementary School Musical"|
|2011||Glee: The 3D Concert Movie||Mercedes Jones||Concert film|
|2012||RuPaul's Drag Race||Herself / Guest judge|
|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|
|2015||The Wiz Live!||Addaperle||Television special|
|2016||Crazy Ex-Girlfriend||Dream Ghost #2||Episode: "Josh Has No Idea Where I Am!"|
|2016||Straight Outta Oz||Brenda||Television film|
|2017||Let It Shine||Herself / Guest judge||Auditions stage|
|2019–21||A Black Lady Sketch Show||Various characters||4 episodes|
|2019||The Little Mermaid Live!||Emcee||Special|
|2020||Whose Line is it Anyway?||Herself|
|2021||WICKED in Concert||Performer|
|TBD||Dream||TBD||Lead role; Upcoming NBC series|
|2012||Cotton Club Parade||Performer||New York City Center, Off-Broadway|
|2016–17||Dreamgirls||Effie White||Savoy Theatre, West End|
|2019||Little Shop of Horrors||Audrey II||Pasadena Playhouse|
|"Colorblind"||2014||Glee: the Music, Bash|
|"Someone You Loved"||2020||Non-album Single|
|2013||"Never Be Lonely"
(with Eric Bellinger)
|In The Meantime|
(with Eric Zayne)
|"This Is What It Feels Like"
(with Kenyon Dixon)
|2016||"Lions and Tigers and Bears"||Straight Outta Oz|
|"See Your Face"|
|"#ChangeRightNow"||I Am Major|
|2017||"Anybody Who Knows What Love Is"
(with Boyz II Men)
|Under the Streetlight|
|2019||"I'm A Mess"
(with Kenyon Dixon)
|2010||Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series||Glee||Won|
|Teen Choice Award||Choice TV: Female Scene Stealer||Nominated|
|Choice Music: Group||Nominated|
|2011||Grammy Award||Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Award||Choice TV: Female Scene Stealer||Nominated|
|2012||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|2013||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|2017||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actress in a Musical||Dreamgirls||Won|
|Evening Standard Theatre Award||Best Musical Performance||Won|
|WhatsOnStage Award||Best Actress in a Musical||Won|
|2018||Classic Brit Award||Album of the Year||Songs from the Stage||Nominated|
...her mother's maiden name is Hightower.Note: Gives siblings names as Benson and Ashley.
...growing up in La Mirada, Calif. ... But like her older sisters Toiya, 34, and Ashley, 26... [In sidebar] Age: 24.
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