Press:Mitchell Lane Publishers Mitchell Lane Publishers (October 2004)
Author Name:Kathleen Tracy
When Clay Aiken took a one-in-a-million shot at music stardom by qualifying for and then nearly winning the American Idol contest in the second season, he captured America's heart.
Now, with hit records to his name, the North Carolina native has a voice that is being recognized everywhere.
Veteran celebrity biographer Kathleen Tracy takes you behind the scenes of one of America's most popular television shows to learn what Clay actually went through to achieve his success.
Learn about Clay's rough childhood and how his singing has meant everything to him.
Tracy delivers all the information that Clay fans have been waiting for.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter One Were Not in Kansas Anymore Despite the stifling heat, the over six thousand people who were packed into the Universal Amphitheater were buzzing with anticipation.
It was Wednesday, May 21, 2003, and the second-season finale of American Idol was about to begin.
Uncertainty abounded, because this years contest was too close to call.
The only thing anyone knew was that the voting was going to be tight and that the fans of whoever lost would surely feel robbed.
Unlike the previous year, when Kelly Clarkson was the obvious pick of the talent litter going into the final, this time Americaas well as the American Idol judgesseemed evenly split over whether the winner should be Birmingham, Alabamas Ruben "the Velvet Teddy Bear" Studdard or the boy next door with the golden voice, Clay Aiken, the pride of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Backstage, Ruben and Clay distracted themselves from the mounting pressure by joking with each other and the rest of the Top 12 finalists who would perform during the telecast.
Although only Aiken and Studdard were vying for the American Idol title, because this was Hollywood, even runners-up would be showered with surprises.
Waiting backstage for all the finalists were lavish gifts provided by top-shelf companies eager to be associated with the American Idol phenomenon.
Lois Hill Accessories brought an assortment of jewelry, including bracelets and necklaces; the Shoreham Hotel offered a weekend stay at their posh Manhattan digs; the newest digital toy, XM Satellite Radio, caught Rickey Smiths fancy; while others were impressed with leather goods from designer Donald J.
Clay posed for some photos, holding up a video explaining the wonders of Lasik eye surgery, before going off by himself.
He wanted to collect his thoughts prior to the start of the special two-hour finale.
Out on stage, American Idols co-executive producer, Nigel Lythgoe, prepped the audience to raise the energy level even higher.
"Whos for Clay?" he shouted.
The resulting applause and screams were almost deafening.
"Whos for Ruben?" he asked, and the floor of the amphitheater shook from the noise.
The first part of the telecast was basically a sixty-minute tease for an audience craving to see Ruben and Clay.
Among the segments shown was a clip reel of lowlights from various international Idol shows, showing some cringe-worthy performances from countries including France, England, Germany, and Lebanon.
Arguably the least talented performance came from U.S.
contestant Keith Beukelaer, whose rendition of Madonnas "Like a Virgin" caused Simon Cowell to snap that Keith had to be "the worst singer in the world." By the time the second half of the show arrived, the audience was almost begging to hear the would-be Idols.
They finally got their wish when Kelly Clarkson, the 2002 Idol, sang a medley with Ruben and Clay.
They were joined by the other 2003 finalists, who sang another medley of songs made famous by the seasons guest judges, including "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "Lets Get Physical." Kimberley Locke got her moment to shine when she joined Clay and Ruben for the songs "Superstar," "On the Wings of Love," and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." As the excitement rose, so did the temperature, with people openly fanning themselves.
During one commercial break, producer Lythgoe begged the audience to "try and stop looking like youre too hot.
Make yourselves look alive.
Breathe!" Throughout the evening, emcee Ryan Seacrest tantalized the audience with snippets of information on the voting results, revealing the tally from certain states.
Not surprisingly, Ruben carried Alabama, while Clay won New York.
But Seacrest was serious when he said that the voting was the closest ever seen on American Idol.
Out of 24 million votes cast, there was a difference of less than one percent between the winner and the runner-up.
It was down to just Clay and Ruben.
They each reprised their performances from the previous night, with Clay crooning "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Ruben singing "Flying Without Wings." Both performances almost caused the theater to implode from the sounds of wild cheering.
People had come from all across America to root for their favorites in person, and the energy hummed through the audience.
Writer Michael Gross recounted in an MSN article how he had met one Clay Aiken fan by a souvenir stand.
She had flown out from Michigan after her sister surprised her with tickets to the finale.
According to Gross, "She held a big homemade poster that said, Northville, Michigan § CLAY!! I asked, Did you come all the way out here just for this? She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath.
Its a lot more exciting to be here.
You feel like youre a celebrity, too.
Because we were screaming and he was mouthing Thank you.
Right to us.
You feel like youre inside it." Finally, the time for singing was over.
The two friends joined Seacrest onstage.
Stretching out the drama as long as possible, the three judgesSimon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jacksongave their final thoughts to Aiken and Studdard, all keeping true to form.
Paula praised them both for their talent and made it clear she thought they were both winners.
Jackson called the men his "dawgs," and Simon, the consummate businessman, revealed that Clay and Ruben would both be releasing singles on the same day, regardless of the outcome.
As he looked out at the audience, waiting to hear the results, Clay felt oddly calm.
He had already come farther than he had ever imagined he could, having experienced so many amazing adventures, been overwhelmed by the support of fans all across the country, made close new friends, and grown so much as a personwhatever the final tally was, he later said, he truly felt as if he had already won.
He turned to look at Ruben and Seacrest, thinking he really had traveled over the rainbow.
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