Victoria Loren "Tori" Kelly (born December 14, 1992) is an American singer, songwriter and record producer who slowly gained recognition after starting to post videos on YouTube at the age of 14. When she was 16, Kelly auditioned for the singing competition television series American Idol. After being eliminated from the show, Kelly began to work on her own music. In 2012, she independently released her first EP that she produced, wrote, and mixed herself, titled Handmade Songs By Tori Kelly. The following year, Scooter Braun became her manager after seeing her videos on YouTube and introduced her to Capitol Records, with whom she signed in September. Kelly's second EP Foreword came out in October 2013 as her first major label release. On June 23, 2015, Kelly's debut album, Unbreakable Smile, was released. The lead single, "Nobody Love", was released in the spring and became her first US Billboard Hot 100 appearance. Kelly was nominated for Best New Artist at the 58th Grammy Awards.
Life and career
Kelly was born in Wildomar, California. Her father is Jamaican and Puerto Rican, while her mother is of Irish and German descent. Growing up, she was exposed to a variety of music by her parents. "I give them a lot of credit for just playing all different genres, and no genre was off limits," she said when asked about her upbringing. Kelly has appeared on the show Star Search. With vocalist Tiffany Evans winning the title of Junior Champion in the junior singer division, she did not win the contest.
In 2004 she participated on America's Most Talented Kids, singing Christina Aguilera's "Keep on Singin' My Song" and won, beating out musician Hunter Hayes. She made a second appearance on the show in the Tournament of Champions, but lost to Antonio Pontarelli, a rock musician. At the age of twelve, Kelly was offered a record deal with Geffen Records, which she accepted, but because of conflicting ideas it was mutually agreed for her to be released. In 2007, Kelly began posting videos to YouTube, at the age of 14. The first video she uploaded was a cover of John Wesley Work, Jr.'s "Go Tell It On The Mountain", which she originally performed, back in December 2004. Kelly gained recognition for her acoustic cover, with a fellow YouTuber, named Angie Girl of Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You".
Despite her shortcomings when she auditioned for American Idol and failing to reach the top 24, she approached the world in a different way. Kelly learned how to play the guitar, composed original song pieces and had them recorded through her own personal computer. In given time, Kelly had gone viral in a matter of days. Tori Kelly began sharing her performances through YouTube, and due to her musical talents, her page reached 700,000 subscribers.
2010–13: Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly
In 2010, Tori Kelly auditioned for Season 9 of American Idol in Denver, Colorado and made it through to Hollywood week but did not reach the "Top 24" of the artists. She had claimed that 'she was devastated' but she had 'given it her all'. Afterwards, she was asked to take part in a youth version of the 1985 charity song "We Are the World" titled "We Are the World: The Next Generation". Although former judge Simon Cowell appeared to find Kelly's voice "almost annoying", she carried on performing and writing songs. On May 1, 2012, she released her first EP, titled Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly, which was released on her own label, Toraay Records. Kelly wrote, produced, engineered, and recorded the EP by herself in her bedroom. Shortly after its release, the EP made it to the Top 10 Pop Albums list on iTunes.  She called the EP a "warm up" to a full-length album that is to come in the future. It has currently sold more than 14,000 copies and reached number nine on the US Heatseekers Albums chart".
In February 2013, Kelly released a single called "Fill a Heart", which she wrote for the "Child Hunger Ends Here" campaign by ConAgra Foods and Feeding America. The song was later performed by British boy band The Wanted on Dancing With the Stars. Starting in April 2013, Kelly performed at eight different venues across continental U.S. for her "Fill a Heart" tour, helping out at the cities' food banks during the day. She has performed in venues such as the Troubador and the Roxy in Los Angeles, the Gramercy Theater in New York and Bush Hall in London. She has also been featured in magazines such as Teen Vogue, Elle and Glamour.
During mid-2013, Kelly's newly assigned manager Scooter Braun introduced her to the heads of Capitol Records. She had been "very skeptical" about signing with a major record label in fear that things would not work out in her favor. "I'd been burned before. But when I met those guys, I had never felt that way: They were fans and really got me." On September 6, 2013 she was signed to Capitol Records.
2013–present: Foreword, Unbreakable Smile and "Hollow"
In September 2013, Kelly announced on The Today Show that her major label debut, a second EP, titled Foreword, would be released on October 22, 2013 on Capitol Records. The EP has sold more than 16,000 copies, debuting at number 16 on the US Billboard 200. Kelly was the sole supporting act to Ed Sheeran at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 2013 and supported Sam Smith on his In the Lonely Hour UK tour in October 2014.
Kelly wrote and recorded a song called "Silent" for The Giver: Music Collection, supporting the film adaptation (The Giver) of the novel The Giver, which was released on iTunes on August 5, 2014. On August 7, 2014, Kelly posted a live acoustic version of the song on her YouTube channel; which has over 2.6 million views as of October 2015. Kelly was featured on "Lullaby" by British rapper Professor Green, which was released in the United Kingdom on September 14, 2014. The song peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart, thus providing Kelly with her first British top ten hit. Kelly was featured on the medley "Winter Wonderland"/"Don't Worry Be Happy" on Pentatonix's album That's Christmas to Me that was released in October 2014. On December 1, 2014 it was announced that Tori Kelly was one of MTV's Artist's To Watch. She privately performed two songs for MTV: "Funny" and "Dear No One"; both can be found on her Artist To Watch page. Her "Funny" performance was aired on MTV for several weeks.
Throughout 2014, Kelly worked with Braun on her debut album in which she had contributions from Toby Gad, Max Martin, and Ed Sheeran. The lead single from the album, "Nobody Love", was released on February 8, 2015. It was written by Rickard Goransson, Max Martin, and Tori Kelly herself. The album, entitled Unbreakable Smile, was released on June 23, 2015, and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. Kelly performed "Should've Been Us" at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.
"Hollow" was released on October 22, 2015 as the first single from the new edition of Unbreakable Smile. In the same month, Kelly became the brand-ambassador of William Rast, the clothing line co-founded by Justin Timberlake. In late 2015, Kelly received a nomination for Best New Artist at the 58th Grammy Awards. She performed at the ceremony with English singer James Bay.
Kelly recorded an updated version of "Baby Baby" with the song's original artist, Amy Grant. This recording commemorates the song's 25th anniversary and will be released on April 29, 2016. Kelly is set to make her cinematic debut in the upcoming animated movie Sing playing the voice of Meena the elephant.
On July 10, 2016, Kelly released an original song "Blink of an Eye" in honor of her friend Christina Grimmie, on the one month anniversary of her killing during a meet and greet at The Plaza Live in Orlando, Florida, on June 10, 2016 while on tour with Before You Exit. The song also paid tribute to the victims of current tragedies including the Pulse nightclub shooting, shootings of Dallas police, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and terrorist attacks in Bangladesh and Turkey. A few days after the song's release another mass tragedy took place in France.
- Unbreakable Smile (2015)
- Fill a Heart Tour (2012)
- Foreword Tour (2013)
- Where I Belong Tour (2015)
- Unbreakable Tour (2016)
Awards and nominations
|2015||YouTube Music Awards||50 Artists to Watch||Won|||
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Web Star: Music||Nominated|||
|Streamy Awards||Breakthrough Artist 1875|||
|MTV Europe Music Awards||Best New Act|||
|Best Push Act|
|Artist on the Rise|
|VH1's Big Music in 2015: You Oughta Know||Artist of the Year|||
|Billboard Women in Music||Breakthrough Artist||Won|||
|2016||People's Choice Awards||Favorite Breakout Artist|
|Grammy Awards||Best New Artist||Nominated|||
|Glamour Awards||International Musician/ Solo Artist||Pending|||
|Radio Disney Music Awards||Breakout Artist of the Year||Won|||
|Best Crush Song||Nominated|||