Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Measuring Clay Aiken

This is a pretty good article. I made it better by taking out the ridiculously forced attempts at cutesy language which detracts from the overall message. I started on the grammar and punctuation, but quickly gave up.

There's nothing wrong with occasionally writing "straight". No pun intended. Remember this:

"When we stop categorizing people verbally, then we'll stop categorizing them socially" Clay Aiken

It’s easy for some to heap criticism on people who have skeletons in the closet, because closets are for clothes. But here in post "Will and Grace" America, we of the free-to-be-you-and-me generation might insist that full disclosure is imperative. I’m among those who subscribe to the less popular opinion ‘in your own time.’ Must identity always be a political act?

Clay Aiken, American Idol’s favorite nerd, had every right to find himself, in his own time. That said, many of us weren't surprised to see the headline on People Magazine: “YES, I’M GAY” but he came out in style. Clay may be the only person in all of history to come out while holding his brand new baby in his arms.

I applaud Aiken for taking his interesting timing. Clay knew he didn’t owe a sea of strangers one iota of kiss and tell, but he did owe the truth to his son. In fact, he did come out to his mom years ago.

No one could’ve known that kingdoms of Claymates would erupt the moment the lovable nerd took off his spectacles. To this date, Clay is the most successful male Idol contestant of all, including the ones who actually won. Ruben who? I confess to being sucked into the American Idol franchise, never to escape, by the shy redhead alone. He blew me away with “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” That big ol’ voice was just gorgeous, darling, and it made a Claymate out of me. What a sweetheart- go on, doll, pour some sugar on me! But like a hot potato, I dropped my crush on this cute special ed teacher as soon as he began recording- not sure what I was hoping for- maybe jazz standards? Vocally, it was out of sight, but the slick schmaltz that oozed from the sparkling Idol machine was the kind of thing they fight over at the senior’s centre, and that’s where I sent my copy of the lad’s first album, Measure of a Man. Was it any real surprise that he moved on to singing Richard Marx covers?

But just because some of us prefer a little edge- or at least a beat- from our torch balladeers, doesn’t mean we should all point and jeer because he’s queer. Still, there’s something refreshing about a southern Baptist who leaves the safety of his flock to set his own rules. Here’s a born-again Christian who doesn’t get married to hide his love away- instead he sires a son with his best friend, Jaymes Foster, a 50 year old woman, and comes out blazing. Now that’s panache. He could have spent God’s call picketing women’s clinics. Instead, he tuned out the noise, tuned out the boys, and set out to follow Jesus’ example- working with poor and needy children, using his newfound riches and clout to make a big difference.

Yes, what most people don’t know is just how much this rebel does for needy kiddies. In fact, it was the former Raleigh choirboy’s work with an autistic child named Michael that led him to his fame as runner-up on the second season of Idol, because Diane Bubel, the boy’s mother, encouraged Clay to try out. Today his primary charity is the Bubel Aiken Foundation, helping intellectually challenged children in dozens of ways.

Who knew that Clay Aiken is also an ambassador for UNICEF? Clay helps raise funds and awareness to get kids all over the world into the classroom. His participation in a tsunami relief telethon helped raise ten million bucks. He helped out with the South Asian tsunami as well. Fearlessly, he worked in dangerous northern Uganda, helping kids called “night commuters.” These night runners flee their towns to avoid being kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army, an armed and dangerous militant terrorist insurgency. The guerrilla army’s aim is to establish a theocracy based on the teachings of their leader, Joseph Kony. They use tactics of murder, rape, kidnapping, sex enslavement, and torture, in Sudan, Uganda and the Congo. In one horrifying incident, they hacked into pieces the bodies of 45 Congolese Catholics.

Clay had a busy year prior to baby Parker’s birth and his concurrent un-closeting in September of 2008. He was in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan helping give polio vaccines and visiting schools. He rushed to Mexico for Christmas, not to vacation at his Riviera villa or check out the hot tamales, but to help kids who were affected by major floods. He’s worked with Malaria No More.

In Africa, he was in Somalia, currently one of the most dangerous countries in the world. He learned that there are only 350 doctors there. “The lack of a permanent central government has contributed to Somalia’s status as one of the poorest and most volatile countries in the world. Decades of civil conflict have shattered social structures and exacerbated poverty,” Clay wrote for his UNICEF blog. “A Somali child’s chances of surviving to adulthood are among the lowest of children anywhere in the world…What disturbs me most about this terrible situation for children is that most of the world has ignored it. Millions of children live in fear and poverty—where is the outrage?” Then it was on to more goodwill hunting in Kenya. After the 2008 elections there, political upheaval caused terrible violence. “Everywhere we went, there were the charcoaled remains of homes, schools and shops,” he writes. “We drove for hours and everywhere we went, we saw people trying to get their lives restored.”

Yes, well, that was just UNICEF. Three years ago, then-President George Bush (yuck) appointed the spitfire as adviser for the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. So Clay was helping the former prez and the Department of Health and Human Services with program and service issues for those special kids he loves so much. He was also part of America’s Promise Benefits, Toys for Tots, and a spokesperson for Ronald McDonald House Charities. In his “spare time,” while performing on Broadway with Monty Python’s Spamalot, he raised money for Equity Fights AIDS. Plus, only two days into the new Obama era, Clay is already petitioning for presidential back up to save kids from malnutrition. But whatever happened to his studies? Millionaire or not, he finished his coursework while touring so he would still get the degree he started in special education.

Somewhere between today and Idol 2003, on top of all this charity work, Clay has released five albums, (like ‘em or not, and millions do!) toured the world singing, created numerous television specials, appeared on dozens of talk shows, and written a book called Learning to Sing. AND of course, all that was preamble to his cuddliest creation, baby Parker.

So what’s the deal with his son anyhow? Certainly, the media jump all over anything less than traditional in the great hunt for scandal. Coming out with your brand new baby in your arms makes amazing copy, but I think it also makes for amazing family. Best friends don’t have to break up. Talk about family values. Clearly, nothing in Clay’s unusual persona is about keeping up appearances. Despite all the cruel online jokes about the baby's conception, Parker's mother Jaymes knows that Clay’s genes ARE exactly what she wants: he won’t bellyache about babysitting or diapers or whether she’s getting too fat. He’s proven this from the beginning with his time and money, looking after the sick and the poor and the disabled. Unlike many mothers, she can be sure Dad’s prepared to put a child first. (And yes, the child was conceived through in vitro fertilization.)

I admire most those who turn a stereotype upside down when it really counts. And kudos to Clay for refusing to be the kind of Christian we are all used to and sick of. Unlike the other kind who are always pointing fingers at Tinky Winky or unwed mothers for causing the fall of society, he’s out in the world doing the work his Savior commanded him to do- feed the hungry, visit the sick. It’s certain that he is privately contending with struggles of faith and community as he forges ahead into his own brand of family values. I say that takes tremendous pluck and a heart filled with love. On the other hand, he isn’t interested in being a queer stereotype either- the poor dear is rather fashion unfriendly. And he came out in his own sweet time, for his own reasons, without bowing to public pressure. Plus, Clay wasn’t exactly a diva while getting his Versace good and dirty in the war-torn Middle East. No wonder he’s been voted the most loved reality star of all time! But Clay isn’t so sure he deserves the adulation. He told People Magazine that he regrets being too busy to do more!

21 comments:

  1. Chexxxy,

    This is a great article on Clay Aiken, and -- LOL! -- you really did make it better. I read the original, and your editing wins my vote.

    Thnx for sharing!

    Caro

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  2. Thanks for editing this article, Chexxxy. It's much better this way.

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  3. Anonymous5:13 PM

    Wow, what a difference.Thanks for doing that . I can actually read it without feeling uncomfortable. I wouldn't label any other minority with all that OTT crap.

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  4. OMG, Thank you chexxxy, for taking out all the garbage in the article, so we could enjoy what she had to say. I started reading it as she wrote it, but was so irritated by the constant derogatory slams, I gave up.Closed it out, and went on my way. I too, liked what she had to say, but it wasn't worth all of her name calling/dropping, to suffer through it 'as is'. You pulled the crap out, and made it a decent read.

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  5. Thanks so much for doing this. The article was hard for me to read in its original form. Some of those demeaning words just got in the way. Now it is perfect!!!

    So proud of that man!! He is one in a million.

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  6. Anonymous5:56 PM

    Thanks for posting this article
    Chexxxy. This writer touched almost
    every facet of Clay's life. The article is great and made much better by your editing.

    Annieg9

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  7. I was absolutely grinning from ear to ear while reading this. Too bad she didn't do it your way. But hey, I'm not gonna complain.

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  8. Anonymous7:57 PM

    Great job Chexxxy. The article reads MUCH better now!
    ImGranny

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  9. Thanks Chexxxy for weeding through the cutesy catch phrases and branding terms to get to the heart of the article - which is that Clay Aiken has an amazing hear that matches his amazing voice.

    He is a Christian in the true sense of the word and walks his religious path with dignity.

    WWJD? Exctly what Clay is doing.

    NOW we can see the message in the article without it being blocked.

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  10. tnmtmama10:15 PM

    Very nice editing job on this article. I read the original and thought it was good, maybe trying a little too hard, but I like this version better.

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  11. This gets to the heart of who Clay Aiken really is .

    While reading the article I kept thinking of the phrase used by many fans over the last 6 years . We came for the voice and stayed for the man .

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  12. The first version was well researched at least. Your version is the way it should be presented to the general public. It's a wonderful article of Clay's accomplishments. Wish your version would make the rounds.

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  13. Thank you Chexxxy for taking out all the labels and the sarcastic names the writer used. Why was that necessary? Clay Aiken is so much more than his sexuality and this article now shows who he really is.

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  14. Thank you Chexxxy!

    If I didn't already love Clay, I think this article would have me searching out more info on him. He really is a fascinating person.

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  15. Anonymous3:55 PM

    Great article! I didn't have a problem with the way it was written because it suited her target audience, but since I am not part of that audience, I enjoyed your edited version much more. Thank you for taking the time to post this.

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  16. Thanks for cleaning this article up. It's never right to use demeaning labels for anyone regardless of who they are.

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  17. Anonymous7:39 PM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLISvLA_ACY

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  18. This is a great article made even better by Chexxxy's editing. It listed so many of Clay's wonderful accomplishments, but they seemed diminished by the article in it's original form. It was a much more professional article after the editing.

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  19. Thanks for the clear writing style you gave this otherwise very good piece. You've written for a broader audience and one Clay deserves.
    " Who knew when the glasses came off millions of women would swoon"..I think she's picked up on the reason for the long adjustment period.
    artz11

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  20. Anonymous8:25 AM

    It is much better without all the extra adjectives thrown in. It was a good article, but too much can be distracting to what's being said.

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  21. Anonymous12:35 PM

    Thanks for editing and presenting this great article Chexxxy.

    Annie

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