Date of Birth: December 14, 1992
When most people think of YouTube sensations, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran are the names that come to mind. But with her rising star power, unique voice and role in the animated film Sing (2016), Tori Kelly is looking to join those ranks.
Born Victoria Loren Kelly in Temecula, California to musically inclined parents, Tori first appeared on the small screen in 2010 when she auditioned for American Idol. She fared well on the reality program, making it all the way to Hollywood week. Although judge Simon Cowell described her voice as "almost annoying," Tori credits her experience on Idol for toughening her up. In the January 2016 issue of Seventeen, for which she graced the cover, she said, "I needed to get knocked down and build up a thick skin. Who knows what I would have been singing about otherwise? You have to go through things in order to inspire others with your story."
An earlier statement she made to Marie Claire in October 2015 also illuminates what she was able to learn from Idol. She said, "Looking back I think it was a blessing in disguise that I got cut from the show when I did because right after that was when I got more serious about songwriting and that's actually when I started posting videos."
Following her elimination, she focused her energy on posting videos of herself singing to YouTube. Her breakthrough came with her cover of Frank Ocean's track "Thinkin’ Bout You," which went viral and garnered over 24 million views.
Tori built on that momentum by releasing an album that she wrote, produced and recorded herself on her own label, called Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly. The EP made its way onto the Top 10 Pop Albums list on iTunes. In 2013, she signed with manager Scooter Braun, who landed her a record deal with Capitol Records. She released a second EP, Foreword, which gained her much wider recognition. She became Ed Sheeran’s opening act at Madison Square Garden, appeared on several television programs and was named one of MTV’s Artists to Watch.
In 2015, her new album Unbreakable Smile catapulted her to stardom. With hit pop singles such as "Nobody Love" and "Should've Been Us," the album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and contributed to her Best New Artist Grammy nomination in 2016.
On her official website, ToriKellyMusic.com, she discussed the development of Unbreakable Smile and the combination of genres that it represents. She said, "It's like a marriage between that soulful urban thing and a mainstream pop vibe. It was hard to get to that place, but once we had 'Nobody Love,' I knew we'd cracked the code. It felt seamless."
In 2016 Tori made her feature film debut with the animated musical Sing. She voices Meena, a teenage elephant equipped with a beautiful voice but a crippling case of stage fright. The cast is bolstered by star-studded talent, including Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly and Taron Egerton.
In her October 2015 interview with Marie Claire, Tori revealed that she looks up to P!nk and that her passion has always been singing. She said, "I remember growing up singing even when I was just three years old. I was singing all the time in the house. My parents said I was singing before I could even talk properly."