Amber Riley Says She 'Didn't Really Know Where I Stood' on The Masked Singer Before Winning

Amber Riley Says She 'Didn't Really Know Where I Stood' on The Masked Singer Before Winning

Harp played her way to a gleeful win on Wednesday's Masked Singer finale, taking home the Golden Mask trophy and revealing her identity as Amber Riley.

"It feels absolutely amazing," the actress, 36, tells PEOPLE of winning. "I'm kind of in disbelief, but really, really excited that everybody is finally going to know."

Riley beat out Lambs — now revealed to be Grammy-nominated trio Wilson Phillips — thanks to two strong performances during the finale. Judge Jenny McCarthy called Riley's rendition of Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory" the "best performance I've ever seen in a finale show ever." And Robin Thicke referred to Riley's twist on "Gravity" by John Mayer as "hands down one of the best things we've ever heard on this stage."

"We chose the songs that we felt told the best story for the Harp and what it was that we were trying to convey in the season," Riley said. "They let me be myself and put my own little vocal flare on things."

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Masked Singer finale recap
Masked Singer finale recap

Unique Nicole/Getty, Michael Becker / FOX

Riley tells PEOPLE about what to expect from her new music, performing under the stuffy Harp mask and her Broadway dreams.

You said in one of your clue packages that only your mom knew you were going on the show. Who do you think is going to be the most surprised to find out that, not only did you go on The Masked Singer, but that you won the whole thing?
AMBER RILEY: My dad just finally kind of figured out that it was me, because he just texted me a couple of days ago. But for the most part, my family was like, "Girl we know." They clocked me very early on.

What made you want to go on The Masked Singer?
Honestly, any time that I get the opportunity to sing, I'm pretty much in. And my mom is such a big fan of the show. During the pandemic, my friends and I and my mom, we used to watch The Masked Singer, so it was a way for me and my friends to connect even though we couldn't be around or see each other. So kind of nostalgia purposes.

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Michael Becker/FOX

You've talked before about how people call you "Mercedes" because of how closely fans associate you with your Glee character. Do you think that performing anonymously on The Masked Singer will change that?
No, not really. I think that I've established myself as Amber Riley at this point. Obviously, my Glee character is how people know me and it'll always be something that's very close to me. But now people are going to know me as the Harp, too. Just as when I go to the U.K., a lot of people know me as Effie White because I did Dreamgirls, so I don't know if it's going to separate anything. I think it's just going to be another way for people to connect with me.

What was it like performing as Harp?
It honestly depended on the day. Some days I was like, "Oh my God, get me out of this." And some days, I think maybe towards the end, it almost felt like a weird comfort thing. I got so used to it that it just felt like second skin eventually. But the mask was always hot though. I did not enjoy the hot mask.

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Who did you view as your biggest competition on the show?
I didn't really get to hear anyone. They kept everyone pretty separate. I would hear a little bit of something on the battles. I didn't really know where I stood in the competition, and whenever I won a round, I was just as surprised as everyone else. I didn't know who voted for me. I didn't hear anyone else.

Is there anyone from your season who you would've liked to spend time with?
I love Montell Jordan. That was really cool to know the day he was the one that was behind the mask. I was like, what? Just my whole childhood. That's really wild.


Getty Images/GLAAD Amber Riley

Do you see music being a bigger part of your career going forward?
Absolutely. Music is always going to be a major part of my life. I'm working on my second EP right now, that should be coming out next year. Leaving Masked Singer and then actually winning and hearing all the things that people had to say about my voice ignited another fire in me. The music that has been coming out of those sessions has been absolutely amazing and I can't wait for the world to hear it.

What else can you tease about the new music?
That it's R&B. I'm working with some major producers and that has been great. I think people are really going to be surprised when they hear the music.

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You made some references to Dreamgirls and performing on the West End in your Masked Singer clue packages. Would you ever consider Broadway?
Absolutely. I absolutely have Broadway dreams. For me, it just has to be the right project. That's always been a major goal of mine and I know it'll happen, but it has to be the right timing.

Are there any dream shows or roles that you've had in mind?
Not so far, no. I think whatever it is that I do, I think it's going to be something that's fairly new, but I'm not against doing anything that's been done with before or a classic. It just has to be that right thing.