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Clay Aiken Clay Aiken

IML: Who are your idols?

Clay: Musically, I have people who I think are good but my idol, since I wanted to be a teacher, is Mr. Rogers. When people ask me what three people Iíd like to have dinner with, living or dead, I say Jesus Christ, Mr. Rogers, and Jimmy Carter.

IML: You worked with special needs kids. Did that prepare you in any way for show business?

Clay: Definitely. In Special Education, you have to work each child and situation individually. And in the entertainment industry, each situation is different. Nothing is the same. Also, you learn a lot of patience working in Special Education, and you really have to have quite a bit of patience here in Hollywood!

IML: What else did you learn working with Special Ed. kids?

Clay: Not to sweat the small stuff. Kids with disabilities learn a lot from kids without disabilities, like socially acceptable behaviors. But kids without disabilities learn a lot from kids with disabilities. There are so many things that are so much bigger than what to wear that day. I donít feel sorry for children with disabilities. I feel excited for them for the opportunities that they do have.

IML: With Diane Bubel, you started a foundation to help kids with autism and other disabilities.

Clay: Yes. The goal is to put kids with disabilities in the same situations as kids without. Diane is the mother of a child I worked with, and she got me to go on the show. I said, ĎFine, Iíll do it if you just keep quiet!Ē

IML: What was your own childhood like? Were you popular?

Clay: I was more sociable with adults. I was with my mom and her friends, and I didnít go off to play that often. It was just my mother and me until I was six, and then I automatically got a brother and a sister when she got married. There was a big gap in age; theyíre 36 and 31. Iím 25. I also have a 17-year-old half-sibling.

IML: Were you ever bullied when you were younger?

Clay: No. I donít think I gave anybody a reason to bully me. The thing about bullies is if you show them that youíre intimidated and youíre upset by them, theyíre gonna keep doing it. Iíd be, ďForget you, thenĒ and walk away. I donít let things get under my skin as much as some people do.

IML: Did you have any teachers who really made an impression on you?

Clay: I did in high school. I wanted to be a teacher and there were two teachers, Miss Probst and Miss Stone, who were very good and in tune with high school kids. They had an ability to get passionate about whatever the students were passionate about and they made me want to be a teacher.

IML: When did you know you could sing?

Clay: At the risk of sounding cocky, I always knew I could sing. I was young. I think I started singing when I was four. A kid that will jump up and sing at that age, itís not that theyíre good, itís just that theyíre outgoing enough to do it. It was probably eighth grade when I realized, when people started telling me.

IML: Were you in musicals at school?

Clay: I did the freshman, sophomore, and junior musicals but got cut from my senior one. I donít think Iím the best singer ever. I donít think Iím better than all 32 of those people who sang. I still donít. Kim Locke is going to do well. Sheís already been signed to Curb Records and she has an album coming out I think the same day as Rubenís. Her first single is better than mine.

IML: Youíre afraid of the water, hate cats, bite your toenails and wanted to be on The Amazing Race. True or not?

Clay: All of them are except for the toenailsÖIíve stopped! Actually, I donít hate cats, Iím just kind of afraid of them. I wanted to be on Amazing Race. I was prepared to put in applications with a number of different people.

IML: What do you do in your spare time?

Clay: Sleep!

IML: Where did you get the nickname ĎGonzoí?

Clay: At the Y, everyone has a nickname and I went through a number of them. At some point Gonzo stuck.

IML: Have you splurged on anything special for yourself?

Clay: I got a car for Raleigh and I got a car for here and thatís pretty much all Iíve gotten. And furniture. I debated long and hard about getting two cars. I could have kept the one I had in Raleigh but I decided to sell it. Hereís what I consider a splurge: I needed a couch and I had to get it and didnít look at the price tag. Before I had the money, I would have checked the price tag before I even looked at the couch.

IML: Where do you want to be in the next 5 or 10 years? What goals do you set?

Clay: In this arena, I donít set goals because itís part of my realist nature. But there are things I want to do. I always wanted to sing on the Macyís Thanksgiving parade and Iím doing it! I want to have a second album.

IML: What advice can you give kids who want to be singers?

Clay: If you think youíve got it and you really want to do it, youíve got to do it and youíve got to stick with it. You really need to believe in yourself no matter what other people say. If you donít, the only thing youíre going to be able to say is ďWhat if?Ē What if I hadnít auditioned? I wouldnít have this.

Back to Part One.

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