In 2016, Tori Kelly is a respected musician who's in Grammy-contention. But only a few years ago, feared former American Idol judge Simon Cowell shut her down. Now that she's on the other side of his scorn, she says she appreciates his rejection tremendously.

Kelly, who covers the February 2016 edition of Seventeenauditioned for the singing competition in 2010 when she was 16. She says coming to terms with Cowell's harsh criticism (he called her voice "annoying," though the rest of the judging panel loved it) helped build her character.

"Deep down, I knew I was good, and I knew I could do it," she said. "I needed to get knocked down and to build up a thick skin. Who knows what I would have been singing about otherwise? You have to go through things in order to inspire others with your story."

And her resolve paid off: Her debut album, Unbreakable Smile, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 last year and includes a feature by Ed Sheeran on "I Was Made For Loving You." To clear up any potential rumors: No, the pop acts are not dating.

"I knew that [question] was coming, but no," she said. "Working with him was a really cool experience because I was a fan and I didn't know how it would go, but right away he made it super chill. Ever since then, he's been someone I consider a friend and even a mentor."

Read more excerpts from the interview, which is due out January 5, and tell us if you're inspired by Tori's words!

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