Clay Aiken

Talent Show Contestant / Singer

Born: 30 November 1978
Birthplace: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Best known as: Runner-up to Ruben Studdard on American Idol 2003

Name at birth: Clayton Holmes Grissom

Singer Clay Aiken finished second to Ruben Studdard in the 2003 edition of the TV talent show American Idol (hosted by Ryan Seacrest). The Fox TV series featured performances by 36 unknown singers, with home viewers given the chance to vote contestants off the show each week. Aiken's nerdy innocence and potent voice were a particular hit with female viewers, and he nearly topped Studdard in the final voting: he lost by 134,000 votes out of 24 million cast. (Aiken was skinny and Studdard a robust 350 pounds, giving them something of a Laurel and Hardy appeal.) Aiken's first album, Measure of a Man, sold over a million copies after its release in October 2003 and he was suddenly a pop star. He released an album of Christmas songs the next year, and his third album, A Thousand Different Ways, was released in September of 2006.

Extra credit: Aiken was an infant when his mother and father (Vernon Grissom) separated; he later took his mother's maiden name as his legal last name... Dogged by rumors of his sexuality, Aiken addressed the issue in 2006, if only to say it was nobody's business... Fox TV originally reported that Aiken had lost to Studdard by a mere 1340 votes, but later corrected the figure to 134,000... The Aiken-Studdard American Idol finale was broadcast on 21 May 2003... Other winners of American Idol include 2002's Kelly Clarkson, 2004's Fantasia Barrino, and 2005's Carrie Underwood... The judges on the show are Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell.

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