SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched Season 8, episodes 11 and 12, of “The Masked Singer,” “Two-Hour Epic Finale,” which aired Nov. 30 on Fox.
“The Masked Singer” ended its eighth season on a “Glee”-ful note. Singer and actor Amber Riley, known for playing Mercedes Jones on Fox’s “Glee” and more recently for projects including “A Black Lady Sketch Show” and Lifetime’s “Single Black Female,” was revealed as this season’s winner on the Wednesday night finale.
Riley was unmasked as the Harp, beating out the Lambs — who were unmasked as 90s vocal group Wilson Phillips.
“It’s very validating as an artist,” Riley tells Variety about her win. “It can get very discouraging in this industry, especially as a music artist. I’m pretty much a new artist, even though I’ve been in this industry a really long time… to hear all the amazing things that the judges had to say about me [has been validating]. Even seeing online the things that people had to say about me and how positive feedback has been. My voice has been my lifeline for my entire entire life. It’s saved me time and time again.
“This show is something that I didn’t know that I needed, to keep me growing,” she adds. “It refueled me.”
For Harp, judge Nicole Scherzinger was correct with Amber Riley. Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg guessed Jordin Sparks. Robin Thicke thought it was Yvette Nicole Brown. Ken Jeong named Jennifer Hudson.
“I really did try to cover up my voice by singing heavier and lower, but I don’t know, they guessed me pretty early on,” Riley says. “Which was OK. It’s kind of flattering that your voice can be recognizable because it makes you feel like an original. And I knew that Nicole was going to guess me early on too. So, I wasn’t very surprised by that. But I was really flattered by the other guesses, like Jasmine Sullivan and Jennifer Hudson.”
For Lambs, Robin Thicke got it right with Wilson Phillips. Nicole Scherzinger agreed. Ken Jeong guessed the Kardashians, Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg thought it was The Chicks.
Amber Riley as the Harp and Wilson Phillips as Lambs join Nikki Glaser as Snowstorm, Ray Parker, Jr., as Sir Bugaboo, Linda Blair as Scarecrow, Chris Jericho as Bride, Adam Corolla as Avocado, George Foreman as Venus Flytrap, George Clinton as Gopher, Joey Lawrence as the Walrus, Le’Veon Bell as the Milkshake, Kat Graham as Robo Girl, Jerry Springer as Beetle, Gloria Gaynor as Mermaid, Mario Cantone as Maise, Daymond John as the Fortune Teller, Barry Williams/Christopher Knight/ Mike Lookinland as the Mummies, Montell Jordan as Panther, Jeff Dunham as Pi-Rat, Chris Kirkpatrick as the Hummingbird, Eric Idle as the Hedgehog and William Shatner as the Knight as the celebrities revealed in “The Masked Singer” in Season 8.
This season, “The Masked Singer” adopted a new “King or Queen of Masked Singer” format. That meant three or four costumed celebrities performed each week, but only one moved on to compete against two or three more people the following week.
That led to the semi-finals, with the Harp surviving Round 1 and being the first to make it to the semi-finals, while Lambs won Round 2 and also joined the semis, with Snowstorm winning Round 3. Harp and Lambs moved on to tonight’s finale.
“The Masked Singer” Season 8 featured costumes including “Bride,” “Avocado,” “Venus Fly Trap,” “Sir Bugaboo,” “Scarecrow,” “Hedgehog,” “Mummies.” Themed episodes included “Vegas Night,” “Comedy Roast,” “Hall of Fame,” “Muppets Night,” “Andrew Lloyd Webber Night,” “TV Themes,” “’90s Night,” “Thanksgiving” and “Fright Night. ” Guests this season included Donny Osmond, Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Muppets, Will Arnett, Leslie Jordan, Joel McHale, Tori Spelling, Jon Lovitz, Jodie Sweetin, Carrot Top, Blue Man Group, Lance Bass, Danielle Fishel, Sheila E. and Drew Carey.
The Season 8 contestants “boast a combined 32 Grammy nominations, 16 Emmy wins, 8 gold albums, 4 Golden Globe nominations, 42 books, 10 Teen Choice awards, and 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” according to Fox.
Here were the contestants and their performances on the finale:
Harp (Amber Riley)
Songs: “The Edge of Glory,” by Lady Gaga; “Gravity,” by John Mayer
Previous songs: “Perfect,” by Pink; “I Have Nothing,” by Whitney Houston; “Thank You for Being a Friend” (“The Golden Girls” theme song); “About Damn Time,” by Lizzo
Voice over package: “Becoming the Harp has been unlike anything else I have experienced as an artist. When I step into this costume, I am transformed. I feel regal. Elegant. And totally weightless. Which is ironic because this thing is no joke to cart around. But really, it’s freeing. Being under the mask has allowed me to separate from former jobs, my name, what people expect from me, and prove myself with just my voice. I’ll always be the Harp.”
Journey voiceover: “When I started this journey, I had no idea just how much this competition would mean to me. I’ve spent years in an industry that doesn’t necessarily celebrate who I am all the time. In Hollywood, you can be overlooked based on a more shallow viewpoint. But being able to be the Harp and step out and show my talent alone has been absolutely amazing. This opportunity has allowed me to reintroduce myself to the world on my own terms. And hearing the panel’s words of encouragement week after week has reminded me that I am more than enough. I want to win it not just for myself, but for all the girls who have felt less than perfect. Do not underestimate us.”
Panel guesses: Jennifer Hudson, Yvette Nicole Brown, Fantasia, Amber Riley
Previous panel guesses: Amber Riley, Ashanti, Yvette Nicole Brown, Queen Latifah, Jordin Sparks, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Ariana DeBose
Lambs (Wilson Phillips)
Songs: “I’m Every Woman,” by Chaka Khan; “I Want to Know What Love Is,” by Foreigner
Previous songs: “Hot N Cold,” by Katy Perry; “Ironic,” by Alanis Morissette; “Need You Now,” by Lady A
Voice over package: “Becoming the Lambs has been a transformative experience. And it’s kind of unbelievable how attached to them we’ve become. We fully embody these characters. We gave ourselves names. I am Rose, my sister is Lilac and my other sister is Blueberry. We’ve been on stages almost our entire lives. But this experience has pushed us as a group and as individuals. And I don’t think we would have made it this far without each other. It will be a part of our lives forever. It’s our rebranding. We’ll make an album with animals. Pet Sounds, Volume 2!”
Journey voiceover: “Coming into this competition, we didn’t know what to expect. But we invited this challenge, and we walked through fire. It’s reinvigorated a spark that we haven’t lit in a very long time. We spent 14 years apart and we went our own ways. We became mothers and carved out our own lives and careers. But there was always a missing piece. Our unique sound is something we discovered as little girls. And if those harmonies that have bonded us together and set us apart from the rest of the competition here. Music is in our blood, it’s the air we breathe, it’s our life force.”
Panel guesses: Spice Girls, The Chicks, Wilson Phillips, The Corrs
Previous panel guesses: The Kardashians, Haim, The Chicks, The Corrs, Fifth Harmony, SWV, All Saints, Spice Girls, Wilson Phillips