Local News

Raleigh's Clay Aiken Falls Short Of 'American Idol' Title

Posted May 22, 2003

— Clay Aiken fell just short of becoming the next "American Idol," stunning many fans of the North Carolina native when the results were announced Wednesday night.

The winner was announced in a special two-hour season finale broadcast live from Los Angeles.

Ruben Studdard beat Aiken with 50.28 percent of the 24 million votes cast by callers.

"I'm extremely proud of him," Aiken told WRAL's Lynda Loveland following the announcement.. "Ruben said last night before we went on the show 'Just think about it. The two most unlikely people to be in the top two and here we are.' We're thrilled with being here. It's been an amazing experience" he said.

Simon Fuller, the creator of the singing competition, announced that he will simultaneously release singles in two weeks by Aiken and Studdard, the winner of the televised contest.

Studdard was guaranteed a recording contract with his victory.

"It's not over yet," Aiken told WRAL's Lynda Loveland following the announcement.

A crowd of 8,700 fans filed into the

RBC Center

to watch Aiken compete with Studdard of Birmingham, Ala., for the recording contract.

When the results were announced, a hush fell over the RBC crowd filled with sign-waving fans wearing Aiken T-shirts and buttons. A few boos were heard.

Many people immediately headed for the exits, while others applauded Studdard's victory.

"Ruben's a great guy," said Karee Redman, 43, of Raleigh, who brought her daughter and three other children to the show. "They both deserved it. I just wish it could have been a tie."

Said Redman's daughter, 14-year-old Kelsee: "I was so amazed (Aiken lost). He was so awesome."

Fans in the arena wore T-shirts proclaiming "Clay Aiken for American Idol" and buttons stating "I Love Clay Aiken." A vendor said the 600 buttons sold out before the show began at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Rebecca Hinton, 9, came with her mother Susan and 10-year-old sister Rachel.

"Clay rocks," Rebecca said.

Five college students from Kentucky in Raleigh for a conference came to watch the show as well. All of them said they supported Aiken. They left the arena soon after the show disappointed.

"I wouldn't expect a voice so powerful to come out of him," Heather Medendorp said.

Aiken's appearances on "American Idol" have not only helped his potential career, but they have also benefited the

Autism Society of North Carolina

and the YMCA -- two organization close to Aiken's heart.

An Autism Society of N.C.spokesperson said it received donations over the weekend ranging from $15 to $500. Other donations have come to the society from events at area shopping malls, like a recent event where people videotaped a message to Aiken for a $1 donation.

The A.E. Finley YMCA in Raleigh, where Aiken was a camp counselor for many years, has received about $2,800 for a campaign to help fund summer programs and camp scholarships.

Besides the title, Studdard got a recording contract that could be worth millions of dollars. Aiken will get a recording contract, too.

Last season's winner, Kelly Clarkson, a 20-year-old Texan, was signed by RCA Records and saw her album, "Thankful," debut at No. 1 last month. She also stars in a movie with last season's runner-up, Justin Guarini.

This season began with 70,000 auditions nationwide. The field was cut to 12 finalists, who were eliminated one by one based on how many votes they received from callers. The show has averaged 21 million viewers.

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