There is an exciting exuberance about the multitalented Corbin Bleu — actor, singer, songwriter, dancer, model, producer, musician — and quadruple-threat Amber Riley — actress, singer, dancer, songwriter.
Although they have accomplished a great deal in a relatively short time and are well known in certain circles, each has received a giant boost by competing, and doing exceptionally well, on season 17 of “Dancing With The Stars.”
Riley’s professional partner is four-time winner Derek Hough while Bleu is partnered with Karina Smirnoff, season 13 winner.
“Dancing With The Stars” has introduced them to a whole new audience and in the process expanded their career possibilities.
RILEY IS familiar to television viewers, in the younger demographic, for being Mercedes Jones in the popular musical-drama series “Glee” and has been since the show’s introduction in 2009.
She had hoped that her road to show business success would begin with “American Idol,” for which she auditioned in season 2, the winner that year being Ruben Studdard.
Riley says bluntly, “I auditioned and they told me no.”
Disappointed but still determined, Riley forged on, being honest about the obstacles she would continually have to face, as an African-American woman and, perhaps more significantly, as a plus-size woman in a profession that puts a premium on being slim. In fact, more often than not it is a (non-official) requirement.
“Going to auditions and having casting directors say you need to lose weight, I didn’t understand why people couldn’t accept me for who I was,” she said, “And the rejection started wearing on my self-esteem.”
RILEY HAS derived inspiration from Queen Latifah, another plus-size actress-singer, who was told the same kinds of things early on, but her focus was on becoming successful despite the naysayers. Today she is a multidimensional superstar.
Currently planning her introductory album, one of the highlights of Riley’s career up this point was singing the National Anthem on the opening day of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
There was a lot of pride derived from receiving an NAACP Image Award nomination in 2011 for “Glee,” and as part of that show’s ensemble cast, she took home a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Riley could not have possibly had a better “Dancing With The Stars” partner than Derek Hough, who in addition to being a four-time Mirror Ball trophy winner, this year won a Primetime Emmy Award in the Outstanding Choreography category for “Dancing With The Stars.”
The Riley-Hough partnership was an unlikely one and many people had doubts —and it had much to do with her weight — but it has worked out beautifully. Moreover, no one knew just how good a dancer Riley is and how light on her feet. She has brilliantly mastered every routine Hough has created.
CORBIN BLEU began his career as a child and teen star and is probably most familiar for being featured in the well-received “High School Musical” films.
Brooklyn-born Bleu’s heritage is interesting. His father is Jamaican and his mother is Italian.
Amazingly, he started his career at the age of two, appearing in TV commercials for products such as Hasbro toys and Bounty paper towels.
One reason for his outstanding moves on “Dancing With The Stars” is the fact that Bleu trained at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. As for acting, he was a theater major at the famed High School of Performing Arts in New York and graduated from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.
After moving to LA, Bleu landed roles in such TV series as “Malcolm & Eddie” and “ER” as well as small roles in several films. And it seemed like only a matter of time before he caught the attention of the Disney organization.
In 2006, Bleu secured the role of Chad Danforth in “High School Musical,” which still stands as the most successful Disney Channel Original Movie. The third installment of “High School Musical” became the first Disney Channel Original Movie to be made into a feature film.
Bleu’s other television work includes “Hannah Montana” and the daytime drama “One Life to Live.”
He also recorded two albums, “Another Side” in 2007 and “Speed of Light” in 2009. In addition, he appeared in two Broadway shows, “Godspell” (2012) and “In the Heights” (2010).
Known for his good looks, megawatt smile and friendly nature, Bleu said, “I’m a very outgoing person. I’m always happy. I’m one of those people who are always smiling. I get along with everybody.”
And he is unusually philosophical about competing for roles in an industry where the jobs are miniscule compared to the number of people who want them.
“I love competition and really going for it and doing my best,” he said. “But I feel that if I do lose, the other person really deserved it.”
Corbin Bleu was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2007 in the Outstanding Performance in a Youth/Children’s Program” category for “High School Musical.”
Bleu and Riley are expected to have long show business careers.