Clay Aiken (born Clayton Holmes Grissom; 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.
Aiken 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 eleven 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, a position he held for 9 1/2 years until 2013 when he gave it up in order to run for Congress. He was the "UNICEF Ambassador of Education for All Children Worldwide"; he traveled extensively on their behalf in this role. 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. He won the Democratic primary held on May 6, 2014, but lost to Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the general election on November 4, 2014.