Glam Before and After
Glam Before and After
Clay Aiken
Name: Clay Aiken
Jobs: Singer, Television Personality, Politician and Activist
Famous For: 2003 Second Place winner of American Idol
Clay Aiken
Name Clay Aiken
Jobs Singer, Television Personality, Politician and Activist
Famous For 2003 Second Place winner of American Idol

“It’s not the money. It’s not the fame. It’s the influence.” It’s hard not to get a little nostalgic when it comes to revisiting the first season of American Idol when Kelly Clarkson took home the grand prize as she belted out “A Moment Like This” through tears of joy. The same can be said for the reality series’ second season when Ruben Studdard took home the grand prize with North Carolina native Clay Aiken waiting in the wings with a strong second place finish. While Studdard was obviously comfortable in the spotlight, Aiken proved to be an even bigger star as he burst onto the music scene after years of trying to make it into the business on his own.

Riding the heels of his success on American Idol, Aiken released his debut album titled Measure of a Man in October 2003 and watched as it climbed to the top of the charts to become the best-selling solo debut album since Snoop Dogg (which is likely the only thing the two performers will ever have in common). With the album featuring well-received hits like “Invisible” and “This is the Night,” Aiken’s confidence as a singer grew as he released four more albums—Merry Christmas with Love, A Thousand Different Ways, All is Well and On My Way Here—over the next five years.

Despite making dozens of television appearances in addition to launching 11 tours, releasing a New York Times best-selling book and even dabbling on Broadway, Aiken saw his popularity as a mainstream artist fade by 2011 as his last album failed to reach the top 100 chart in the United States. This motivated Aiken to turn his attention away from the stage as a performer and focus more on his passion for politics and activism. By 2014, his political message was clear as he ran on the Democratic ticket for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District only to lose in the general election. But, the election wasn’t the only thing Aiken lost.

A few years prior to the 2014 election, Aiken returned to the spotlight as a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice where audiences were shocked at his new look, which was so drastic it was impossible for the crooner to deny having any elective surgery. Finally coming forward about his “fresh” face, Aiken said, “I had operative surgery on my jaw for a TMJ thing and I had them suck the fat out of my chin while they were in there.”

With the TMJ operation eventually turning into a full cosmetic procedure, Aiken brushed it off saying, “I was like, ‘You know what, while I’m already down, go ahead and take the vacuum in there and suck the fat out of my chin.’” And, while it’s obvious his surgeon did exactly that, many believe Aiken had even more work done than he’s letting on. Some tabloids speculate that Aiken had a rhinoplasty to narrow the bridge and reshape the tip of his nose, neither of which the singer is willing to admit even though he came clean about his chin.

Many were surprised to hear that Aiken opted for plastic surgery in the first place but the singer turned politician has obviously settled into his new look and lifestyle. Just a month after the birth of his son, Parker Foster, in August 2008 with his longtime friend Jaymes Foster, Aiken came out as gay during an interview with People magazine. “I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things,” he admitted. Since then, Aiken has been an advocate of gay rights and even traveled to Washington, D.C. in 2010 to discuss anti-gay bullying with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Since his congressional loss in 2014, Aiken has spent the majority of his time focused on raising his son. However, in 2016, he surprised even himself when he returned to the spotlight in a role that combined both his former stardom and his political knowledge—as a special political reporter for The View on ABC. When riots broke out in his native North Carolina, Aiken was happy to cover the news in the battleground state for the popular daytime talk show. Needless to say, nothing was ever mentioned about his former music career or his plastic surgery.

Aiken has obviously come a long way since making his stage debut in 2002 on American Idol and even has a $6 million net worth to prove it. While he may have used his stellar vocals to pave his own path to stardom one lyric at a time, we can’t help but think the North Carolina activist and political hopeful will attempt a second run in the political arena one day soon. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see if yet another chin lift or Botox injection might be in the works to freshen up the 37-year-old’s look.