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 (2009–2015). 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 three Grammy Awards.
In November 2016, Riley led the West End debut of Dreamgirls, playing the lead role of Effie White. She won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2017 for her role in Dreamgirls.
Riley won season 17 of Dancing with the Stars in 2013, and appeared as a judge on BBC One musical theatre talent show Let It Shine in 2017.
Riley was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Tiny (née Hightower) and Elwin Riley. She has two older sisters, Toyia 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 six seasons. 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, sang the national anthem at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and is currently working on a debut solo studio album. 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. 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. 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.
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.Performances
In January 2014, Riley and her sister Ashley launched a plus-size online clothing boutique, Rileyland Fashions. She also models the garments.