Although this crooner was the runner-up on the second edition of American Idol
, he went on to become one of the show's most famous stars. With his geeky appearance, his Southern charm and his powerful renditions of ballads such as "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," Aiken won the hearts of viewers and spawned a veritable cult of rabid fans (Claymates) that turned him into a best-selling pop star. "This Is the Night," his 2003 debut single, sold more than 392,000 copies during its first week, breaking the previous record set by Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997," and Aiken's first album, Measure of a Man
, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart and went triple platinum. In 2004, the sudden star was a busy boy, making the rounds on the talk-show circuit, publishing a memoir, touring all over the country, and even producing and appearing in his own eponymous Christmas special and releasing an accompanying album. Aiken kept a lower profile in 2005 (although he did a guest spot on the sitcom Scrubs
) and didn't release his next album — A Thousand Different Ways
, which was mostly covers — until September 2006. He made his Broadway debut in Spamalot
in 2008, welcoming a son with friend Jaymes Foster (sister of music producer David Foster) later that year. In 2010, Aiken reunited with his American Idol
cast mate Ruben Studdard for summer tour. Out of the spotlight, the singer is an advocate and fund-raiser for children with disabilities.Clay Aiken Fast Facts:
- Changed his last name from Grissom to his mother's maiden name, Aiken, at age 20 after severing all ties with his father.
- Planned to try out for The Amazing Race before turning to American Idol.
- Was rejected at American Idol's Charlotte, NC, audition but made it through an Atlanta, GA, audition the next weekend. Went on to be Season 2's runner-up to winner Ruben Studdard.
- Hit song "The Way" was cowritten by Enrique Iglesias.
- Created the Bubel/Aiken Foundation to help children with neurological disabilities. The foundation was named for Diane Bubel, the mother of a child with autism who persuaded him to audition for American Idol.
- Released A Thousand Different Pieces, an album of mostly cover songs, in 2006.
- Made his Broadway debut in 2008 in Spamalot as Sir Robin.
- Welcomed a son, Parker Foster Aiken, with friend Jaymes Foster, sister of music producer David Foster. The baby was conceived via artificial insemination.
- Played a fictional version of himself in a 2009 episode of 30 Rock, as a cousin to the character Kenneth Parcell.
- Clay Aiken Relationships:
- Ray Parker - Stepfather
- Vernon Grissom - Father
- Deborah Grissom - Half Sister
- Faye Parker - Mother
- Catherine Aiken - Grandmother
- Brett Parker - Half Brother
- Parker Foster Aiken - Son
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC (BA in Special Education, 2003)