Clayton Holmes “Clay” Aiken (born November 30, 1978) is an American singer–songwriter, television personality, actor, author, politician and activist. Aiken was the 2014 Democratic nominee in the North Carolina 2nd congressional district election.
Clay Aiken was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a young boy, Aiken sang in the Raleigh Boychoir; and, as a teenager, he sang in school choirs, church choir, musicals and local theatre productions. After high school, he sang lead with a local band, Just By Chance, co-hosting and performing with the band at “Just by Chance and Friends” shows in Dunn, North Carolina. He was also MC and performer at the Johnston Community College Country Showcase in Smithfield and at the North Carolina Music Connection and Hometown Music Connection shows in Garner, and Benson.
On August 8, 2008, Aiken announced, on his personal blog, the birth of his son in North Carolina: “My dear friend, Jaymes, and I are so excited to announce the birth of Parker Foster Aiken.” The child’s mother, Jaymes Foster, is the sister of record producer David Foster and the executive producer of Aiken’s last three albums on the RCA label. “The little man is healthy, happy, and as loud as his daddy,” Aiken wrote. “Mama Jaymes is doing quite well also.” Aiken said in his book, Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life, that “It’s a Southern tradition to be given your first name from your grandmama’s maiden name.
Aiken had filled out an application to participate in the reality show Amazing Race when a friend of his insisted that he try out for American Idol instead. Television viewers first glimpsed Aiken during the audition episodes at the beginning of American Idol’s second season. The show’s judges first saw Aiken as a nerdy type unlikely to be a typical pop idol, but after hearing him sing Heatwave’s “Always and Forever” decided to advance him to the next round. The clip of the judges’ surprise during this audition performance was replayed many times over the course of the competition.