American Idol Judges Encourage Transgender Teenager After Emotional Audition: 'We Believe in You'
"Ace, you're doing great and it's going to get better and better and better," Katy Perry told 16-year-old Ace Stiles during Sunday's episode of American Idol
During Sunday's episode of American Idol, judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie shared some words of encouragement after 16-year-old Ace Stiles auditioned and opened up about his coming out story and the hardships that followed.
After hearing an original song performed by Ace, Perry asked the singer, "Is Ace your real name?"
"Sure," Ace said. "I'm trans, so I get to pick my name. So technically it's my name."
"A few years ago we noticed that Ace went from very gregarious and outgoing to suddenly very withdrawn and quiet," Ace's mom Colleen said in a video package. "We saw him go into a deep depression."
"It became super confusing," Ace told the cameras. "I definitely had to come out to myself before I decided to come out to everybody else. When I was 14 I had a moment of realization if you will."
"Ace sat me down in his room and said, 'Mom, I have to tell you something. I'm a boy.' I said, 'Okay,' " Colleen continued.
"My mom is definitely a big part in me being happy," said Ace. "It's amazing to be okay with yourself again. It's kind of like relearning how to love yourself."
Ace described a traumatic experience in which he was not "allowed" to use either the men's or women's restroom. "They made me change in the closet," said the singer. "It wasn't fun and made me cry but it's chill."
"Watching him go through all the growth and the hardships, it's hard but he's never shown any bitterness or anger over any of it," said Colleen.
"After coming out, I definitely felt better than I have in a long time," said Ace. "Everybody at home, I hope they see that it's okay to be yourself. I'm going to be myself. I didn't need any of you to tell me I'm not worth it. I am worth it and I figured it out on my own. I like myself and I wouldn't have it any other way because I think I'm pretty cool."
"Ace, you're doing great and it's going to get better and better and better," said Perry, who recently welcomed her first child, daughter Daisy Dove, with fiancé Orlando Bloom.
"I feel like you're far smarter than your years," said Bryan. "The only thing I'm dealing with is the introverted, the quietness of your voice. I think as you grow older, you'll be able to write songs in that realm and I would totally anticipate that out of you, but I don't think it's quite ready for American Idol yet."
"Ace, I'm having a dilemma," Richie said. "I'm trying to figure out, when I hear your voice, if you commanded it. The curiosity of your voice is there."
"Ace, I think you've got an interesting voice," said Perry. "It's definitely very vintage-y, it's definitely very quirky. I think you've got something worth investing. It's going to get better in all the ways. the longer that you have more experience of life, of playing out, getting out of your comfort zone. Ace, we're here for you and we support you. I see it in you. You're a quirky artist, but we want it long-term. We don't want a short situation for you, okay. It's a no for now, but I'm here for you."
After Bryan gave his vote of "No," he told Ace to keep his "chin up."
"Best class you ever took in your life right here," Lionel added. "What we told you was your key to your future. I'm going to say yes to make you feel good about the fact that we believe in you."
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"It's going to come," added Perry. "Let it come. We love you."
"There's no way to not have adversity in the music business and that tough to try and explain to a kid," Bryan told cameras. "But some of these times we tell them no has to light a fire in them."
American Idol airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.