Clay Aiken was born on November 30 ,1978 in Raleigh, North Carolina. When he was younger, Clay was a member of the Raleigh Boychoir and when he grew older refocused his energy on singing for a local band called Just By Chance. Clay studied at Leesville Road High School and after graduating, continued his studies at the University of North Carolina, where he eventually graduated with a degree in special education in 2003. Before coming on season 2 of American Idol, Clay was not only busy with his academics at the University, he was also working as a part-time assistant to an autistic boy. Prior to that job, he also worked at the YMCA's children's camp and as substitute teacher for students with autism.
Clay's mother was the one who urged him to audition for season 2 of American Idol, and although he didn't exactly look like a superstar when he first sang, his remarkable rendition of "Always and Forever" by Heatwave pleasantly surprised the judges, who swiftly gave him a golden ticket to Hollywood. He made it to the Top 32, but was voted out of the show after he singing "Open Arms." Fortunately, the judges decided to give him another chance as a wildcard contender, and his rendition of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" finally did the trick. As a Finalist, he made it all the way to the Top 2, winning America's votes with his performances of "Solitaire," and "Build Me Up Buttercup." However, when it came to choosing who would be the second American Idol winner, the voters went with Ruben Studdard
, making Clay the runner-up of American Idol, season 2.
Since appearing on American Idol, Clay has had to deal with a lot of criticism and speculation regarding his sexuality. Although he has continued to deny the rumor that he is gay, many people still insist otherwise. Clay's fans have been quick to defend and support their American Idol. On the bright side, the controversy did not stop Clay from becoming a popular artist and performer. His first single "Bridge Over Troubled Water/ This is the Night" debuted at #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot 100 Singles charts. In 2003, he came out with his debut album, entitled Measure of a Man. The album was #1 on the Billboard 200 and eventually was deemed by the RIAA as a Double Platinum record. He has also gone on to appear in several television shows like NBC's Scrubs
, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil. In 2006, Clay released his third album (his second was a holiday album) entitled A Thousand Different Ways. He released two more albums after: 2008's On My Way Here and 2010's Tried and True. He was also seen on the game show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, as well as becoming a guest star on 30 Rock. After a stint on the comedy Drop Dead Diva, he was cast in the 2012 season of Celebrity Apprentice.