Sixteen-year-old Ace Stiles is just getting started.

On Sunday’s “American Idol”, the judges watched as the teenager performed an original song, with a compelling, quirky style and even quirkier voice.

“Is Ace your real name?” Katy Perry asked.

“Sure,” Ace said. “I’m trans, so I get to pick my name. So technically it’s my name.”

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Sharing Ace’s story, his mom Colleen recalled, “A few years ago we noticed that Ace went from very gregarious and outgoing to suddenly very withdrawn and quiet. We saw him go into a deep depression.”

“It became super-confusing,” Ace said. “I definitely had to come out to myself before I decided to come out to everybody else. When I was 14 I had a moment of realization, if you will.”

“Ace sat me down in his room and said, ‘Mom, I have to tell you something. I’m a boy.’ I said, ‘Okay,'” his mom said.

Describing coming out as trans, Ace shared a particularly sad story from when he starred in his school play but was not allowed to use either the boys’ or girls’ changing room.

“They made me change in the closet,” the young singer said. “It wasn’t fun and made me cry but it’s chill.”

The experiences haven’t all been bad, though.

“After coming out, I definitely felt better than I have in a long time,” Ace said. “Everybody at home, I hope they see that it’s okay to be yourself. I’m going to be myself. I didn’t need any of you to tell me I’m not worth it. I am worth it and I figured it out on my own. I like myself and I wouldn’t have it any other way because I think I’m pretty cool.”

Ace Stiles. Photo: ABC/John Fleenor
Ace Stiles. Photo: ABC/John Fleenor

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Unfortunately, Ace was hit with another obstacle during the audition and the judges decided against him going to Hollywood.

“Ace, you’re doing great and it’s going to get better and better and better,” Perry told him.

“I feel like you’re far smarter than your years,” Luke Bryan said. “The only thing I’m dealing with is the introverted, the quietness of your voice. I think, as you grow older, you’ll be able to write songs in that realm and I would totally anticipate that out of you, but I don’t think it’s quite ready for ‘American Idol’ yet.

Perry added, “Ace, I think you’ve got an interesting voice. It’s definitely very vintage-y, it’s definitely very quirky. I think you’ve got something worth investing. It’s going to get better in all the ways. The longer that you have more experience of life, of playing out, getting out of your comfort zone. Ace, we’re here for you and we support you. I see it in you.”

After getting a no from both Perry and Bryan, Lionel Richie told Ace, “Best class you ever took in your life right here. What we told you was your key to your future. I’m going to say yes to make you feel good about the fact that we believe in you.”