Amber Riley

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Amber Riley
Amber Riley by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Riley at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego
Born Amber Patrice Riley
(1986-02-15) February 15, 1986 (age 29)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer-songwriter, philanthropist, dancer, author
Years active 2002; 2009–present

Amber Patrice Riley (born February 15, 1986) is an American actress, singer-songwriter, and philanthropist, best known for her portrayal of Mercedes Jones on the Fox television series Glee. She is also known for winning season 17 of Dancing with the Stars.[1]

Early life[edit]

Amber Riley was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Tiny (née Hightower) and Elwin Riley.[2] Riley auditioned for American Idol when she was 17 years old, during the show's second season, but was turned down by the producers.[3] She graduated from La Mirada High School in La Mirada, California in 2004.[4]


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 its first four seasons. She was demoted to a recurring guest star status starting with the fifth season.[5] She performed numerous solos on the show, 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", "Hell to the No", "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.[6][7] For her role as Mercedes Jones, she won a Screen Actors Guild Award and received nominations for an NAACP Image Award and a Teen Choice Award.

In 2013, Riley won the seventeenth season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, and was partnered with the show's one and only five-time champion, Derek Hough.[8] 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.

Riley appeared at the 2010 MTV VMAs, sang the national anthem at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and is currently working on a debut solo studio album.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] The song was also performed by Riley on Glee.

Dancing with the Stars performances[edit]

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 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.[12] Riley has also teamed up with State Farm's Celebrate My Drive campaign to advocate safe awareness for Beginner Drivers, and Encouragement for youth.



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


Year Title Role Notes
2002 St. Sass Toby Television pilot
2009–Present Glee Mercedes Jones Seasons 1–4, 6: Series regular[13]

Season 5: Recurring guest star
86 episodes
Won — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2010)
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2011)
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2012)
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series (2013)
Nominated — Teen Choice Award for Choice TV: Female Scene Stealer (2010)
Nominated — Teen Choice Award for Choice Music: Group (shared with Glee cast) (2010)
Nominated — Teen Choice Award for Choice TV: Female Scene Stealer (2011)

2010 Simpsons, TheThe Simpsons Aiesha Episode: "Elementary School Musical"
2011 Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Mercedes Jones Movie
2012 VH1 Divas Herself Presenter
2013 Dancing With the Stars Herself She won the season on November 26, 2013
Partnered with Derek Hough


  1. ^ "Amber Riley, Derek Hough win 'Dancing with the Stars'". Fox News. November 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ Ingrassia, Lisa (May 17, 2010). "Glee's Amber Riley: "I Love My Body"". Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Glee Star Amber Riley On Idol Rejection: "I Still Work On Fox And Get Paid"". September 30, 2009. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Dish Of Salt: Glee Premiere Party, LA (September 8, 2009)". Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  5. ^ Glee Exclusive: 4 Original Cast Members Not Returning as Series Regulars for Season 5
  6. ^ "TV Review: Glee – “The Rocky Horror Glee Show”". Blogcritics. 
  7. ^ "‘Glee,’ Season 2, Episode 5, ‘Rocky Horror Glee Show’: TV Recap - Speakeasy - WSJ". Retrieved November 1, 2010. 
  8. ^ Derschowitz, Jessica (September 4, 2013). ""Dancing with the Stars": Leah Remini, Valerie Harper, Snooki among new cast". CBS news. 
  9. ^ "GLEEks! Kevin McHale & Amber Riley Are Guest Hosting AT40 This Weekend! - News - American Top 40 With Ryan Seacrest". August 10, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Ascap Search Note: Type "Saturdays" under the performer field and click search.". Ascap. 
  11. ^ "Glee's Amber Riley Premieres 'Colorblind'". 
  12. ^ " and the VH1 Save The Music Foundation Announce Winners of the "Battle for the Bands"". 
  13. ^ "UPDATED Glee Exclusive: 4 Original Cast Members Not Returning as Series Regulars for Season 5; Plus — Who's Getting Promoted?". 

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