“Your number of followers does not define your worth”
Emery Kelly isn’t the first member of his family to be on the radio. His musical roots trace all the way back to his great grandmother, who sang on the radio in between news stories. “It was a family tradition,” he explains. “When I was four years old they put me in a community theatre show and it just made me fall in love with musical theatre.”
But at his Long Island, New York high school, sports were valued more than the performing arts. “I wasn’t considered a popular kid,” he says. “I was treated kind of poorly because of my passion for music and acting. But I just stayed true to myself and told myself it’s going to be okay because if I keep going on this road, it’ll lead me to something better than this.”
And it certainly did. In 2013, when Emery learned that X Factor auditions were coming to his hometown, the 15-year-old registered without telling his parents. “I took it upon myself against their rules and told them, ‘Hey, I’m gonna audition!’ But they gave me their support.”
Emery’s rendition of Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” wowed all four judges and America, too. But after flying to Hollywood, Emery was eliminated from the competition. “When they cut me, I was so devastated,” he shares. “But then they called our names to be in a group, and Ricky and I looked at each other and we were so excited.”
X Factor producers put Emery, Ricky Garcia, and another member into a trio called Forever In Your Mind. And when FIYM didn’t make it past the first night of live auditions, the guys were determined to continue as a group. They were together for about a year when the third member suddenly left, and Ricky and Emery found themselves as a duo, unsure of what was next, but still determined to persevere.
Remember that part about Emery coming from a musical family? Enter his cousin, Liam Attridge, who played several instruments and was making a name for himself in Long Island’s musical theatre scene. “It was kind of like fate,” says Emery. “We were really in a tough spot and it was an instinct for Liam to come work with us. It motivated us even more.”
Emery continually talks about the importance of staying true to yourself and never giving up on your dreams – and he’s a walking example of why both of those things are so important. Imagine if he’d switched from musical theatre to sports in order to fit in better at school? Or if he’d quit when he got cut as a solo artist on X Factor, or after FIYM was eliminated from the show, or when the group lost a member?
But instead Emery’s living his dream: He’s signed to a major record label, traveling the world, performing with his two best friends – and doing it all with a giant smile on his face. “You can’t give up,” he says. “You can’t give up on anything. It sucks giving up. We all inspire each other in different ways and that’s what I love about this group. We stay true to who we are – we like to be who we are, and we want to express how we feel. Don’t let the number of social media followers impact you. That does not define your worth. What defines your worth is who you want to be. Stay real and be yourself because being yourself is the best thing you can do.”
Photos by Joe Magnani
Styling by Robiat Balogun
Grooming by Charles Baker Strahan
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