Clayton Holmes "Clay" Aiken (born November 30, 1978) is an American singer–songwriter, television personality, actor, author, educator and activist who began his rise to fame placing second on the second season of the television program American Idol in 2003. He and the 2003 Winner Ruben Studdard were both offered recording contracts by RCA Records, and his multi-platinum debut album Measure of a Man was released in October 2003. He released four more albums on the RCA label: Merry Christmas with Love (2004), A Thousand Different Ways (2006), and the Christmas EP, All is Well (2006). His fourth studio album (the first album of original material since 2003's Measure of a Man), On My Way Here was released on May 6, 2008.After the release of On My Way Here, Aiken left RCA and later signed with Decca Records. His first album with Decca, Tried and True, was released June 1, 2010 and his second Steadfast, was released March 26, 2012.In the years following his American Idol appearance, Aiken has launched 11 tours, authored a New York Times best-selling book Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life with Allison Glock, and was the executive producer for a 2004 televised Christmas special, A Clay Aiken Christmas and his televised live concert special in 2010 on PBS Tried & True Live!. He has been a frequent talk show guest, particularly on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He appeared as a guest star on Scrubs, Drop Dead Diva, 30 Rock and participated in comedy skits on numerous other shows. He also competed in the fifth season of The Celebrity Apprentice and placed second in the finals to Arsenio Hall.Aiken created the National Inclusion Project (formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation) in 2003, accepted a UNICEF ambassadorship in 2004, and in 2006 was appointed for a two-year term to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.Aiken made his Broadway debut playing the role of Sir Robin in Monty Python's Spamalot in January 2008. His run ended in May but he rejoined the cast as Sir Robin in September and remained through January 4, 2009.In 2014, Aiken announced his intentions to run for congress in North Carolina's 2nd congressional district against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers He officially filed to run on February 27, 2014.2003-2004: Measure of a ManOn October 14, 2003, Aiken released his first solo album, Measure of a Man, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was, with 613,000 copies sold in its first week, the highest-selling debut for a solo artist in 10 years, and to date the highest debut of any Idol. The album received RIAA Double Platinum certification on November 17, 2003 (a Double Platinum plaque was presented to Aiken by Clive Davis on October 22, 2003, during Good Morning America). The album spawned both the hit single "Invisible" and his first hit song, "This Is the Night" (both co-written by British songwriter Chris Braide). Later that year, Aiken won the Fan's Choice Award at the American Music Awards ceremony, and his CD single "This Is the Night/Bridge Over Troubled Water" won the Billboard award for the Best-Selling Single of 2003.2004-2006: Merry Christmas With LoveOn November 16, 2004, Aiken released a holiday album titled Merry Christmas with Love, which set a new record for fastest-selling holiday album in the Soundscan era (since 1991). The album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and tied Céline Dion's record for the highest debut by a holiday album in the history of Billboard magazine. Merry Christmas with Love sold over 1,000,000 copies retail in six weeks and was the best-selling holiday album of 2004, receiving RIAA Platinum certification on Jan. 6, 2005.2006-2008: A Thousand Different Ways and All Is WellAiken's second studio album, A Thousand Different Ways, was released September 19, 2006. He worked on the album under the guidance of Canadian producer and A&R executive Jaymes Foster. The album contains ten cover songs and four new songs, one of which Aiken co-wrote. Clive Davis is credited with the cover concept. One additional song, "Lover All Alone", written by Aiken and David Foster, is included with the album on iTunes. Debuting at number two on the Billboard chart, A Thousand Different Ways made Aiken the fourth artist ever to have his first three albums debut in the Top 5 and scan over 200,000 in the first week.Aiken's second Christmas album, All Is Well (an EP of four Christmas songs), was released exclusively to Walmart on November 28, 2006, and was released to iTunes as a digital download in December 2007.2008-2009: On My Way HereAiken stated in an April 2007 interview with People that he was planning a new album, and during his May 2007 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he mentioned that he was in Los Angeles interviewing producers for the new album. Aiken found a song, "On My Way Here", written by OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, that struck a chord with him and became the inspiration for the album's theme in addition to the album title. For a cohesive sound, Aiken chose Mark 'Kipper' Eldridge to produce the entire album. On My Way Here was released May 6, 2008, on the RCA label.According to an article posted on Billboard, Aiken and RCA parted ways shortly after his On My Way Here album was released. Aiken's rep confirmed to People magazine that Aiken left RCA. Stated in the cited People article, "The buzz about Aiken's exit was fueled earlier this week when his picture disappeared online and Billboard, citing unnamed sources, reported Friday that Aiken, 30, had been dropped by the label. According to Billboard, Aiken’s 2008 album “On My Way Here” sold just 159,000 copies in the U.S., compared to his 2003 debut album, “Measure of a Man,” which sold 2.78 million copies".A fifth album, The Very Best of Clay Aiken, was released at the end of March 2009 on Sony's Legacy Recordings Playlist Series. This album was a compilation of songs that had been included on the previous albums released by RCA. First week sales of 3000 copies placed Playlist: The Very Best of Clay Aiken at number 173 on the Billboard 200 chart and at number ten on the Top Internet Albums chart.2009-2011: Tried and TrueOn August 10, 2009, it was announced on Aiken's official website that he had signed with Decca Records and he would have new music out by early 2010. Performing the songs from his new album, Tried and True, Aiken held a one night only concert at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 12, 2010. The concert, filmed for PBS broadcast, included guest appearances by Ruben Studdard and Linda Eder. Eder joined Aiken on stage for their duet of "Crying", which they recorded for his album. The album was released on June 1, 2010 and features songs popular in the 1950s and 1960s, including two Aiken covered during his run on American Idol, "Mack the Knife" and "Unchained Melody". In conjunction with the PBS special a companion DVD, Tried & True Live!, was released on July 27, 2010. A tour to promote the album is planned for early 2014.2011-present: SteadfastOn December 20, 2011, Aiken released a new single, "Bring Back My Love" under the Decca Label. The single is his first original song since the release of his album On My Way Here in 2008. On March 27, 2012 Aiken released Steadfast, a new album of previous recordings and songs only sung in concerts. The album debuted at #120 on the Billboard 200 chart with sales of 4,000 in the first week.TelevisionAiken has made many television appearances.On Labor Day 2003, Aiken sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon and received a standing ovation from the audience. Lewis compared Aiken with Frank Sinatra and marveled at the dedication of Aiken's fan base:"We have someone here today from the smash hit show American Idol. We're thrilled to have him joining us today, because when it was made known that he would appear on this Telethon, the emails and the fan clubs that this young man has have sent us $30,000.00 just at the fact that he was here. And I can honestly say I have never, in all of my life, seen a theatrical groundswell that this kid has motivated, that it makes us all come right back to the bobby sox and Frank. And isn't it nice to live through that magnificence again? Here is Clay Aiken."That same year, Aiken sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the opening night of the 2003 World Series and appeared in numerous television specials during the winter of 2003, including Disney's Christmas Day Parade and the Nick At Nite Holiday Special, where he sang the "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" with Bing Crosby via special effects.Aiken starred in and executive produced his first TV special (December 2004), titled A Clay Aiken Christmas, with special guests Barry Manilow, Yolanda Adams, and Megan Mullally; the special was released on DVD later that month. On July 4, 2004, Aiken was one of the performers in the A Capitol Fourth concert in Washington, D.C. and performed in the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series in 2004 and 2005. He also sang "Isn't She Lovely" on the popular television show Scrubs.Aiken was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in 2004 and participated in several skits. He has appeared multiple times on The Tonight Show, interviewing with Jay Leno as a guest in addition to singing, and has become a regular guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. The Kimmel appearances often feature skits: in one, Jimmy Kimmel's then girlfriend Sarah Silverman confessed to an affair with Aiken, and in another, Aiken expressed his distaste for Kimmel's jokes about him by beating him up. In May 2007, he spent the first half of his interview on horseback while talking about his recent UNICEF trip to Afghanistan. A few weeks later he appeared as a spokesperson for "Guillermo's Mustache" in Kimmel's fictional DVD informercial shown on the Dancing With the Stars finale. Aiken made his acting debut on Ed in early 2004, playing himself, and in 2005, he was interviewed by Erica Kane on All My Children. He played the role of cafeteria worker Kenny on the Scrubs episode "My Life in Four Cameras". In December 2006, he made an appearance as himself on Days of our Lives.After hosting and performing in the American Idol Christmas special in 2003, Aiken has had several subsequent hosting jobs. He was a special correspondent for The Insider for the 2005 Emmy Awards, and on the sets of the sitcom Reba with Reba McEntire and Dancing With the Stars. He co-hosted The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet in 2006, and on November 17, 2006, filled in for Regis Philbin as guest host on Live with Regis and Kelly. During an interview, Aiken covered Kelly Ripa's mouth with his hand. The incident drew considerable media reaction after Ripa complained at length about the incident on her show the following Monday. Aiken made fun of the controversy on the 2006 American Music Awards the next night with Tori Spelling. On The Tyra Banks Show in 2006, filmed before the Ripa incident, Aiken mentioned wanting to have his own talk show someday, and Banks switched seats with him and let him interview her for one segment of the show. Aiken was a guest judge on the April 8, 2009 segment of Banks show America's Next Top Model; in what the show refers to as a teach, he worked with the remaining 8 contestants on their acting skills prior to the judging.In November 2007, Aiken was a contestant on a celebrity edition of the game show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?. Playing for his charity, the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, he chose to drop out after the ninth question with $300,000, despite having a copy and a save at his disposal. If he had played the tenth question, he would have won $500,000; Aiken and the 5th grader playing with him both had the correct answer.In May 2009, Aiken made a guest appearance on 30 Rock in the season 3 episode 'Kidney Now!'. It was revealed in this episode that he is the cousin of the show's character Kenneth.In August, 2010, Aiken guest starred in an hour long episode of Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb, called "Summer Belongs to You". Aiken sang an inspirational duet with Chaka Khan, to encourage those who did not believe that Phineas and Ferb could accomplish their goal of circling the globe faster than the sun, thus creating the longest summer day of all time.On January 30, 2011, Aiken sang the United States' national anthem at the 2011 NHL All-Star game held at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, home of the Carolina Hurricanes.Recently, Aiken guest starred on the comedy drama series Drop Dead Diva.In 2012, Aiken was a contestant in the fifth season of The Celebrity Apprentice, and ended up losing to Arsenio Hall, becoming the runner-up.Aiken appeared in one of last episodes of The Office titled, "A.A.R.M.". He played himself and was one of the judges for a reality show that Andy was auditioning for. BroadwayOn January 18, 2008, Aiken made his Broadway debut when he joined the cast of Monty Python's Spamalot for a four-month run, ending on May 4, 2008. He played Sir Robin, in the Tony Award-winning musical directed by Mike Nichols. In addition to Sir Robin, Aiken played the 1st Guard and the Brother Maynard roles. On August 12, 2008, it was announced that Aiken would resume his role as Sir Robin beginning on September 19 and ending on January 4, 2009. On December 23, 2008, Aiken had his caricature unveiled at world famous Sardi's restaurant.Off BroadwayIn May 2013, Aiken starred as "Man in Chair" in North Carolina Theatre's production of "The Drowsy Chaperone," along with fellow Raleigh native and Tony-Award winner, Beth Leavel, who reprised her role as "The Chaperone."During the summer of 2013, Aiken performed the role of Joseph in the Musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" [2\] at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit Maine.ToursFrom February through April 2004, Aiken and Kelly Clarkson embarked on the "Independent Tour" as co-headliners. Following this tour, he was scheduled for a few summer solo tour dates, but demand ultimately led to the booking of 50 dates across the United States, resulting in what many fans called the "Not-a-Tour". Disney (Buena Vista) was the exclusive sponsor of this unnamed summer tour, promoting their Aladdin Special Edition 2-Disc DVD with a preview of Aiken's rendition of "Proud of Your Boy", a song originally intended for the first release of the film but cut when the Aladdin storyline changed during production. A music video featuring Aiken is on the Aladdin Special Edition DVD. On this tour, he also performed a duet, "Without You," which was released on Kimberley Locke's 2004 debut album One Love.In November 2004, Aiken launched his third tour of the year, which revolved around a Christmas theme. "The Joyful Noise Tour", sponsored by Ronald McDonald House Charities, featured a conductor and a 30-piece orchestra. In some cities, Aiken was supported by the local philharmonic or symphony, such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Local choirs from high schools and elementary schools also participated at each concert.During the summer of 2005, Aiken, with a seven-piece band and three back-up singers, toured with the "Jukebox Tour", performing songs of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, as well as a few favorites from Measure of a Man. He also performed a few new songs being considered for his next album.In early November 2005, Aiken launched his second Christmas tour. The 2005 Joyful Noise tour featured a series of vignettes, written by Aiken, which told the story of an older woman who had lost the Christmas spirit and a young boy who helps her find it again. A cast of actors, dancers and back-up singers traveled with the tour, and members of local theater groups were added in each venue for smaller, non-speaking roles and crowd scenes. The tour opened in Vancouver, British Columbia, on November 2, and ended in Clearwater, Florida on December 30. According to Pollstar, Aiken's first five tours grossed $28 million.In December 2006, Aiken began his third Christmas tour, comprising performances in 18 Midwest and East Coast cities. Aiken was supported by local orchestras, which also opened the concerts with a program of seasonal music.A 23-date tour in support of his third album, A Thousand Different Ways, began on July 4, 2007, and ended in Orlando, Florida, on August 19. On this tour Aiken hired local symphonies to back him, along with tour regulars Jesse Vargas, pianist, conductor and arranger; Sean McDaniel, drummer; and Quiana Parler and Angela Fisher, backup singers. Three days into the tour, Aiken and a woman were involved in an in-flight altercation in which she allegedly shoved him. As a result of the scuffle, Aiken and the woman were later questioned by the FBI. Aiken told ET that he had been sleeping when the incident occurred.His fourth annual Christmas tour, "Christmas in the Heartland," began on November 26, 2007, in Wichita, Kansas. That 21-date tour ended on December 22, 2007, in Merrillville, Indiana.He has ended all of his Christmas tours with his signature Christmas song, "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day."Aiken and Ruben Studdard brought their “Timeless” tour to cities in the US and Canada beginning in Asheville, North Carolina, on July 23, 2010, and ending in Biloxi, Mississippi, on August 14. Instead of a concert focusing on each singers recordings, Aiken and Studdard opted for a variety show format covering medleys of songs from the 1960s to the 1990s with a few solos and interspersed with comedy bits.Aiken announced on July 30, 2010, that he will be touring in February and March 2011 in conjunction with PBS to support his album Tried and True and accompanying live DVD Clay Aiken: Tried and True - Live.Aiken began his fifth Christmas tour "Joyful Noise 2012" in Florida in November 2012. Faith and philosophyIn 2004 Aiken made the New York Times Best Seller List, debuting at number two, with his memoir titled Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life, written with Allison Glock, and published by Random House. Barely mentioning American Idol, in the book he instead turned his focus to the people who had the most influence in his life — his mother, grandparents, siblings, teachers, and friends — and to the importance of religion in his life.While not self-identified as a Christian music artist, Aiken was featured in Christian Music Planet as an "American Idol Christian" in 2004, and in a cover story, "Clay Aiken's Balancing Act", in the January/February 2005 issue. His pre-Idol demo albums included several selections of contemporary Christian music (or CCM) and gospel songs. A performance of the Commodores' "Jesus is Love" at the American Music Awards in 2003 earned Aiken and Ruben Studdard a standing ovation. Aiken has sung a few CCM songs at his pop concerts, and has made Christmas albums, Christmas television specials and performances, and Christmas tours essential elements of his career.He described himself in Learning to Sing as a proud Southern Baptist who had journeyed away from those roots in his late teens in search of a religion with more liberal social policies, and then returned to that church because of family and social ties although he remains at odds with the church on some issues. When asked in a PBS Kids interview to name his idols, he responded, "When people ask me what three people I’d like to have dinner with, living or dead, I say Jesus Christ, Mr. Rogers, and Jimmy Carter."Aiken makes it clear that he is aware not everyone shares his religious beliefs and it is not his intention to press these beliefs on others. When he worked as a camp counselor at the YMCA, he challenged other camp faculty by insisting that singing "overtly Christian songs" was inappropriate, as some of the kids were Jewish. "I stood firm... no child is going to have a spiritual crisis on my watch." His public philosophy, geared towards inclusion and service to others, reflects his stance that decisions about religion should be made at home.ActivismAiken has donated his time and his voice to multiple benefit events and concerts, including the 2004 Rosalynn Carter Benefit, the America's Promise Benefit, and Heather Headley's Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS benefit, "Home," where he sang a duet with Headley. He was one of the celebrity readers for the Arthur Celebrity Audiobook (Stories for Heroes Series), which benefits the Bubel/Aiken Foundation (now the National Inclusion Project) and other charities, and served as spokesperson for the series. He was also a spokesperson for the 2004 Toys for Tots drive, and acted as an ambassador for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Aiken worked with the Make a Wish Foundation to make one little boy's dream of singing on stage with Clay Aiken come true.In September 2006, Aiken was appointed to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities by President George W. Bush. Appointees serve a two-year term; Aiken was sworn in September 14, 2006, by HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Wade F. Horn, Ph.D. In April 2008, Aiken told People Magazine that he was too busy to do as much as he would like, but "If there's something I can do remotely, I would've been happy to do it."While appearing in Spamalot, Aiken used his free time and celebrity to help raise funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA) during their fund drives and auctions. In 2010, Aiken spoke out for gay rights at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in North Carolina. He also joined other celebrities in filming an educational video for Cyndi Lauper's web based Give a Damn campaign, a project of her True Colors Fund. In addition to UNICEF and his National Inclusion Project he is promoting GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network as one of his causes on his official website.National Inclusion Project (formerly BAF)Aiken has been a dedicated advocate for education and for children's causes. His interest in autism issues led him, along with Diane Bubel (whose son Michael is diagnosed with autism and was tutored by Aiken), to found the National Inclusion Project (formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation), which supports the integration of children with disabilities into the life environment of their non-disabled peers. The Foundation runs summer camps which reflect its mission, and also presents Able to Serve awards to support the volunteer efforts of children with physical and mental disabilities. In July 2005, Raleigh's WRAL-TV reported on an internet campaign mounted by critics questioning how Aiken's foundation used its money. WRAL news hired an independent accountant who reported that program services totaled $920,000 in 2004—around 85 cents on every dollar donated—which is considered a solid percentage compared to other charities. CNN picked up the story, and Aiken appeared on Showbiz Tonight to provide details about the Foundation's programs. In late 2004, the Foundation was awarded a $500,000 grant by the US government to develop a K–12 model for inclusion in community service projects to be used in schools across the country. In addition, State Farm granted $1.5 million to the Foundation to help develop a primary education curriculum focused on teaching social and life skills through service to children of all levels of ability.On August 5, 2009, in an open letter from the founders, Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel stated "As we realized the impact the Foundation has already made, it became apparent that even bigger accomplishments could be on the horizon. To that end, we along with the rest of the Board decided that a new name for the Foundation would establish long-term credibility and stability. We sought a name that would signify the Foundation’s position as a national leader on inclusion as well as recognize the Foundation’s start and the efforts of its faithful supporters. After much thought and deliberation, we are proud to introduce the organization we co-founded as the National Inclusion Project."UNICEFIn November 2004, Aiken was appointed a U.S. Fund for UNICEF National Ambassador, with a mission to help ensure that children everywhere are afforded a primary education. After the tsunami at the end of 2004, he participated in the NBC4 telethon, which raised over $10 million, and recorded public service announcements in support of South Asian tsunami relief. He later recorded a video, featuring the song "Give a Little Bit", to be used as a public service announcement to raise money for tsunami victims. He was the 2005 spokesperson for the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF drive.In March 2005, UNICEF sent Aiken to the tsunami-stricken Banda Aceh area to raise awareness of the need to restore education quickly to the children who survived this disaster. UNICEF sent Aiken on another mission in May 2005, to northern Uganda, to witness the plight of children called "night commuters", who flee the villages each night to sleep in streets and shelters in hopes of avoiding being kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army. He was sent to Kabul and Bamyan, in Afghanistan in April 2007, where he was able to spend time with children in their classrooms; he also visited a health center for women and children where he administered oral polio vaccinations to babies. He observed that Afghani children, after being forbidden for so many years by the Taliban regime to attend school, are eager to return to school now that they are once again allowed to receive an education. Aiken spent his 2007 Christmas in Mexico with the children affected by the floods in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco. In late June and early July 2008, UNICEF sent Aiken to Somalia and Kenya.PoliticsOn February 5, 2014, Aiken announced his candidacy as a Democrat for the 2nd Congressional District of North Carolina against incumbent Republican Party Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. The district is heavily Republican and gave presidential candidate Mitt Romney an 18 point victory over Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. On February 27, 2014, he officially filed to run for Congress by submitting his paperwork at the State Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C. Additionally, Aiken has launched his official campaign site at www.clayaiken.com. In his campaign video on the site, Aiken stressed his experience as a special education teacher and his working class roots. "For most Americans there are no golden tickets, at least not like the kind you see on TV," he said. "More families are struggling today than at any time in our history and here in North Carolina we've suffered more than our share of pain." The Democratic primary is on May 6, 2014.FansAiken was voted the Favorite Reality Star of 2003 by TV Guide readers and “the most-loved reality star of all time” in a TV Guide poll conducted in the summer of 2005. In February 2006, People magazine readers voted Aiken their "Favorite American Idol".While the origin of the term "Claymates" is unknown, Aiken trademarked the term. While in Los Angeles in September 2006 for a CD signing and appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Aiken talked with Jann Carl of Entertainment Tonight about the names various sub-groups have given themselves: "Claysians" (Asian fans), "Claynadians" (Canadian fans), "Clayropeans" (European fans) and "Claydawgs" (male fans). She then teased him about having his own "Clay Nation". At the CD signing, two young fans asked Clay to autograph their shoulderblades and then went to the local tattoo parlor to make them permanent; later that day on Jimmy Kimmel Live! they were brought on stage to show the tattoos. Although some of his fans have been criticized at times by the media as being obsessive, he defends the group as a whole. When Kimmel said to Aiken that his fans were "crazy", Aiken stated that they were merely "enthusiastic". In 2003, in anticipation of the release of Measure of a Man, fans all over the country decided to get together and hold parties to celebrate the release of the CD and purchase copies at midnight. In 2006, for the release of A Thousand Different Ways, release parties were held in more than 80 cities in the United States, Canada, and Singapore.