The outrageously popular musical television show “Glee” is known for rooting for the underdog and preaching a message of acceptance and tolerance of people no matter their differences. For “Glee” star Amber Riley, who plays normally confident Mercedes Jones on the show, the lesson of acceptance and love was not always easy for her to adopt for herself.
Riley recently admitted in an interview for MTV series “This Is How I Made It” that before becoming a television star, she had battled with her own body image for 14 years. Hollywood places an enormous pressure on actresses to be fit, thin and conform to many unreasonable standards to fit in with what the media portrays as “beautiful”.
“Hollywood is a very hard place to be in. It really is. Being the person I am, you know, the size I am, being a woman, being a black woman, there's not a lot of roles for us. I was being offered the girl who sits in the corner and eats all day, the girl who committed suicide because she was fat. I never wanted to play a character that hated herself. I wanted people to know that those aren't the only roles for people like me, normal girls.”
Riley battled with herself and with casting directors for a long time before she learned to accept herself.
“Going to the auditions and having the casting director say you need to lose a little weight, I didn't understand why people couldn't accept me for who I was. And the rejection started wearing on my self-esteem.”
Luckily, Riley had supportive parents who instilled in her the knowledge that she was a beautiful, strong and wonderful person, which is much more important than conforming to standards. When Riley landed the role of Mercedes on “Glee” in 2009, she had finally made her dream come true, and can confidently say today that she is happy with her body, herself and her career. She says that the key to life is to create your own path.
“There is no set rule, no set look, no set anything. You make your own rules in life, and your own decisions.”