By: Mara Winters
Ace Stiles, a Senior at Jenks High School, was meant to be a performer, but finding what and where to perform was a journey in itself. At 6 years old, Stiles’ mom was tired of him singing in the house, so she enrolled him in theater. Stiles was in theater until he turned 14. After many years in theater he decided it wasn’t for him.
“I decided to leave when I realized they didn’t want me and I didnt want them,” says Stiles.
He wasn’t made to be a “background” kid, as he described it. Soon after he left theater, his brother became interested in wanting to play ukulele. Stiles’ competitive spirit took over and he decided he was not only going to play ukulele, but he was going to be better at it. Little did he know how this would change his life.
“I started writing music when I got a ukulele, and that’s when I started changing,” says Stiles.
Stiles started seeing a change in himself in the 5th grade. It was a gradual want to be like his brothers, wear their clothes, play with their toys, and partake in anything they did, until it was no longer a ‘want’ to be like them, it was a need to be like them.
Stiles realized what he was going through thanks to the internet and YouTube. Stiles came out as transgender in the middle of 9th grade. The hardest part, he says, was coming to terms with it himself. He describes it as a “battle against himself.”
“I was dead as a girl but alive as a guy, so I picked being a guy,” he says.
He found his name on a baby name website and from that point forward he was Ace Stiles.
Stiles began to play his music at an open mic. He frequently performs at the Gypsy Coffee House and even performed at the Vanguard last year.
“I found a place where they liked me and I liked them,” says Stiles.
Many of his supporters come to watch him at the Gypsy, like one of his biggest, Clifton Raphael.
Raphael, the Screenwriting and Film teacher at Jenks High School, first met Stiles last year when he was enrolled in his Screenwriting class.
He began to see Stiles’ distinctiveness when he turned in his first script. Instead of a regular dialogue, it was like song lyrics. Usually, Raphael would not allow this type of script because most students couldn’t pull it off, but he had faith in Stiles. He was very impressed with how his script turned out.
Stiles invited Raphael to his next performance. He attended and was in awe of his student’s talent.
“I was completely blown away,” says Raphael.
After that performance, he continued to go to Stiles’s open mics and encouraged him any way he could. He even let Stiles perform in class.
“It was a privilege to showcase his talent in my class, ” says Raphael.
This year, Stiles is in his Intro to Film class.
With Stiles’s growing number of supporters, he became more passionate about his music career and decided that he wanted to audition for “America’s Got Talent.”
Over the summer, he spent two weeks on the show, but sadly did not make it through. They wanted him to come back next year and try again, but he has decided not to. He was happy that he had that type of exposure to the music world, but he realized that he didn’t want to be their ‘success’ story.
He wants his music to be a career, and when he does it he wants to do it right.
Stiles has been working on recording some of his songs and has yet to release them because he wants them to be perfect. Every time he has recorded, it hasn’t been right and he will keep trying to make it right even if it might be frustrating to some.
“I want it to hit their souls just right,” says Stiles.
Stiles continues to work on his music and writing songs. One song he is most proud of is one of his newest, called “Loud Mouth,” which was written after his time at America’s Got Talent.
“It’s really upbeat and sassy and makes you feel powerful,” says Stiles.
Stiles was only able to perform this song one time before COVID-19 restrictions stopped him from being able to perform. Although this makes him sad, he sees the importance of keeping people safe. If that means he can’t perform right now, then that’s okay with him.
As for now, Stiles will keep writing and playing music and will continue to perform when things get back to normal.
To keep up with him, you can follow him on Instagram @Acehasstiles or subscribe to his Youtube channel @Ace Stiles. All photos used were taken by Colleen Stiles.