Ace Stiles is only 16 and he's already winning hearts across the country with songs he writes and performs himself. While he didn't get an invitation to the next round from judges, he was certainly a fan favorite after singing his original song "Addicted" Sunday on the tryout rounds of American Idol.
"I'm gonna sing a song that I wrote, it's called 'Addicted,' but it's not about drugs because I'm 16 and that's illegal," Stiles laughed in his audition video.
After he sang, with a distinctive gravelly yet smooth voice while playing a ukulele, judge Katy Perry asked if "Ace" was his "real name," a strange question to ask a trans person. "Sure," he answered. "I'm trans, so I got to pick my name, so technically it's my name! Not legally yet, but it's OK. We've got to wait, "you've got to be 18."
Before Ace came out as trans, his mother knew something was going on. "A few years ago, we noticed that Ace went from very gregarious and outgoing to very withdrawn and quiet," she said in a video interview.
"I definitely had to come out to myself before I could come out to everybody else," Stiles said, "but when I was 14, I had a moment of realization." As soon as he told his mom, she was on board and ready to help however she could.
Unfortunately, it hasn't all been easy. "I did the school play and I wasn't allowed in either of the dressing rooms," he said. "They made me change in the closet. It wasn't fun and made me cry." But he won't let others bring him down. "It's chill," he says now.
"After coming out, I definitely felt better than I have in a long time," he added. "Everybody at home, I hope they see that it's OK to be yourself. I'm going to be myself, and I don't need any of you to tell me that I'm not worth it, because I am worth it and I figured it out on my own."
Still, the judges didn't think he was ready for the next round of Idol. "You've got an interesting voice, you've got something worth investing in," Perry said. "It's going to get better, in all the ways, the longer you have experience with life.... It's going to come. Ace is still percolating."