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Amber Riley is victorious as Harp on 'The Masked Singer'

By Tonya Pendleton
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Amber Riley attends the premiere of "Nobody's Fool" in October 2018 in New York City. She was just announced as the winner, the Harp, on Season 8 of "The Masked Singer." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Amber Riley attends the premiere of "Nobody's Fool" in October 2018 in New York City. She was just announced as the winner, the Harp, on Season 8 of "The Masked Singer." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Amber Riley is the Season 8 winner of The Masked Singer, and she says she's as surprised as anyone else about her victory.

"It feels absolutely amazing," Riley told People. "I'm kind of in disbelief, but really, really excited that everybody is finally going to know."

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The former Glee star was the Harp on the show, dressed in an elaborate costume that incorporated a golden rendition of the instrument. (Riley told Billboard it was not as heavy as it looked as the costume was on wheels.) She beat out the Lambs, who turned out to be Grammy-winning trio, Wilson Phillips, with two performances that the judge's panel raved over.

Riley sang Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory" and John Mayer's "Gravity" en route to victory. Judge Robin Thicke said her rendition of "Gravity" was "hands down one of the best things we've ever heard on this stage."

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In earlier episodes, she performed Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" and Lizzo's hit "About Damn Time." Riley even sang The Golden Girls theme song "Thank You for Being a Friend."

Riley, 36, said that her biggest challenge was trying to make sure her body language didn't give her away. While judge Ken Jeong thought the Harp was Jennifer Hudson, Nicole Scherzinger guessed correctly early on, so Riley had to be extra careful.

"Because I am a performer, I use my whole body to perform," Riley told Entertainment Weekly. "I dance, I use facial expressions, you know, and not being able to connect with people fully and only being able to connect with them through movement and my voice, was actually a great challenge for me. But I was kind of encouraged to know my voice kind of speaks for itself."

Riley had some difficulty taking the mask off, which only added to the suspense of the final reveal.

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Riley's competition through the season included a mix of famous, if unlikely, vocalists, including actors William Shatner, former NFL player Le'Veon Bell, boxer turned grill pitchman George Foreman, comedian Adam Corolla, and actress Linda Blair, as well as singers like Montell Jordan, Gloria Gaynor, Kat Graham, and Ray Parker, Jr. among others.

But Riley's multiple talents -- she won an Olivier playing Effie in Dreamgirls in the London production in 2017 -- helped her secure the win. She says despite all her years in entertainment, winning The Masked Singer has been gratifying.

"I've been in this industry a really long time and just like anyone else I've dealt with rejection and second-guessed my gifts," Riley, who was also the victor on Dancing with the Stars in 2013 told Billboard. "I've gone through it when it's 90% rejection and 10% go for it. Being able to hear my peers and people I admire, especially Nicole [Scherzinger], encourage me and [praise] my gifts brought me to tears. As we try to pretend we are an island, we do need to hear people to encourage us. I needed that and it was inspiring to me."

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And Riley's not done with competition shows. Next up, she'll be appearing with former Glee co-star Chris Colfer on Celebrity Name That Tune coming to Fox on Jan. 11.

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