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Amber Riley performing on Glee - Provided courtesy of KABC / Fox Flash

'Glee' actress Amber Riley recalls 'American Idol' rejection

11/22/2010 by Olivia Allin

Amber Riley, who plays Mercedes Jones on Fox's "Glee", could have gone down a completely different path had she been accepted into the "American Idol" cast when she auditioned several years ago.

The 24-year-old actress grew up singing with her mother, who is a gospel singer. Amber also took acting and dancing lessons early on, believing that acting might be a good way to get into the music industry. When she went an "American Idol" audition, Amber thought it would be her big break.

Riley told YRB magazine she almost lost her spirit after her tryout for "American Idol", FOX's hit singing contest series that is set to air its 10th season in January with a new judges panel.

"With so many people in my family singing, it was kind of easy for me to go into clubs and sing background," she said. "This was my first time out of my comfort zone auditioning. When I did that and they told me no, my world crumbled. I was thinking these people are in the industry and they are telling me no. I'm not good enough to do this. I definitely thought that for a minute... It was a very humbling experience after being told how good I was the whole time."

With some encouragement from her mother, who told Riley, "You know what you have and you know who you are and you know the gift you have. You just have to work harder," the "Glee" actress summoned the courage to quit her job at the home furnishing store Ikea and pursue music full time.

Amber's big break came in the form of the sassy Mercedes Jones, one of the principal characters in "Glee." Amber went to the audition after a friend of a friend said there was a show looking for a young African-American woman who can sing. Riley didn't know what she was getting into at the audition, thinking it was just a small singing role, but she went in confident and scored a role on the Emmy-award winning series.

"I am really glad they ("American Idol") told me no, because maybe if they hadn't, I never would have strived for my full potential or reached my full potential. I might have rested on my laurels," Amber said, adding: "The best advice I can give is just be focused, be sure about what you want and don't let anyone tell you no, you can't do it. Don't let that deter you."

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