After weeks of drama, including two people being disqualified in the middle of the competition, the second season of “American Idol” ended with even more drama. Ryan Seacrest and/or the producers might have massively screwed up by announcing different vote totals during the live finale, but ultimately, Ruben Studdard won “American Idol 2,” beating the runner-up by about 130,000 votes.
Clay Aiken was the runner-up. But you’d never know he didn't win, at least based upon the two performers’ album sales and, more significantly, fan base. Clay Aiken has perhaps the in the entire “Idol” universe. Clay’s first single went platinum and debuted at number one, and he’s released two albums, including a Christmas album last year; it debuted at number four, while his debut album debuted at number one. Clay is currently on his fourth solo tour, his second this year — and that’s in addition to leading the Bubel/Aiken Foundation and serving as a UNICEF ambassador.
Ruben, the only male to ever win “American Idol,” released two records following his win. They performed quite well — he beat Kelly Clarkson’s first-week sales — but Clay’s album still sold better. Ruben’s second record, “I Need an Angel,” was a gospel album that topped the gospel charts and went gold. Since then, he’s remained relatively out of the spotlight; his Web site lists no current tours or appearances. Last spring, Ruben was in the news after he sued his manager for stealing money from him; later, his manager (who’s also his godfather), countersued.
Perhaps the most notorious season two cast member is Corey Clark, who was kicked off “Idol” when it was revealed that he’d been arrested for assaulting his sister. After disappearing for a few years, in the middle of “Idol 4,” Corey popped up and with judge Paula Abdul while he was still on the show (Coincidentally, he was also promoting his new album and a tell-all memoir at the same time.) FOX investigated, and late last summer cleared Paula, although the network added a no-fraternization policy, preventing the judges from having any sort of contact with the contestants.
Third-place finalist Kimberley Locke had a number of hit singles from her first album, “One Love,” and her holiday song “Up on the Housetop” recently hit number one on the Billboard AC chart. This past year, she also signed with Ford Models and is now working as a spokesperson and model for Lane Bryant. But she's continuing to perform and record; her second album is due in March.
Josh Gracin, the Marine who appeared on the show during the Iraq war’s early days, released a country music album, was nominated for the Billboard’s 2005 “New Country Artist” award, and his video for “I Want to Live” was nominated for as a “breakthrough video” in the CMA Awards. His wife gave birth to their son last year. Carmen Rasmusen also released a record last year, and she’s had parts in films, including “Down and Derby” and a version of “Pride and Prejudice.”
Some of the other second-season contestants have found success on the stage. Frenchie Davis, who was kicked off the show once it was revealed that she’d once been featured on an adult Web site, was cast in the lead role of the musical “Dreamgirls.” Vanessa Olivarez released a single that was a hit in Canada, and she went on to star as Tracy in a Canadian production of “Hairspray.”
Despite the impressive accomplishments of the second season’s finalists, North Carolinian Clay Aiken is the one who’s become synonymous with this season, mostly because his fans won’t let him be forgotten.
Next up: The third season of "American Idol" would see another North Carolina native in the final two, although she would ultimately take the top prize.
is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.