Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two Years Later - I still just see Clay Aiken

It has been two years since Clay Aiken came out to the public. I wrote a blog detailing my journey to Clay Aiken and thought I would revisit that blog and add a few additional words - here we go, let's step back two years (this post is a little long, but hopefully you'll find it worth the read):

The Journey to Clay Aiken

Now seems like the best time to discuss, in detail, my journey to Clay Aiken.

The journey begins during American Idol Season 2. This remains the ONLY season that I watched from the very first show to the very last. The reason I watched? Clay Aiken. Actually, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard. I was enthralled with this duo - who'd have thunk that America would embrace the larger than life Velvet Teddy Bear and the skinny teacher from North Carolina with the voice of an angel!

When I first saw Clay Aiken, I saw a young man, in need of a SERIOUS make over, but who could sing like no other. I didn't see straight or gay - I just saw Clay.

As American Idol progressed, I fell in love. I would never have imagined it - it had never happened before and it has not happened since. I fell in love with the voice. I fell in love with the smile. I fell in love with the sparkle in his eye. I fell in love with his presence. I didn't fall in love with straight or gay - I fell in love with Clay.

During the finale, I held my breath with the rest of America. I kind of had the outcome figured out, knew it would be Ruben, but I wanted Clay to win the whole thing. I watched as Ryan Seacrest opened that envelope. I watched Clay watching Ruben. I heard the words "Ruben Studdard" and I saw Clay gracefully step back and let Ruben shine. At that moment, I didn't see straight or gay - I saw just Clay, a man who was genuinely proud of and thrilled for his friend.

And then I watched. I watched as many interviews and appearances as I possibly could. I watched Clay on Oprah, on The Today Show, on The Early Show, on Ellen, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, on The Tonight Show. I watched him become more comfortable with himself, more confident. Clay is always the best guest on any show - he is funny, charming, caring, humble. Through it all was always that voice, the voice that drew me in from the beginning. I never saw straight or gay - I just saw Clay, growing and becoming the amazing entertainer that he is today.

Then I learned. I learned more about UNICEF. I learned more about Autism. I learned more about inclusion. I learned that, while I'm just one person, I can make a difference. I volunteered for Special Olympics. I volunteered at the Food Bank. I walked during the Race for the Cure. I grew to be a more altruistic human being. Clay brought this to me by being an activist for people whose voices are not heard. I never saw straight or gay - I just saw Clay, a man with an amazing heart, who uses his celebrity to bring some good into this world.

Then I witnessed. My first Clay Aiken concert was the 2006 Christmas tour. I was blessed to be in attendance at the Merrillville concert (yay me!!!!). What I witnessed was awe inspiring. Clay is so at home on the stage and he wraps his amazing voice and personality around each and every person that room. I have never seen an entertainer more in tune with the audience, interact and feed off them. Each concert is different, because Clay pays as close attention to the crowd as they do to him. The 2007 Summer tour is another high point. I went to five - yes FIVE concerts! Each and every one was different. There is nothing in this world like a Clay Aiken concert - nothing. I never saw straight or gay - I just saw Clay, singing, "dancing", chatting, laughing, joking and walking miles of bus lines.

I also saw the dark side. I became an Internet fan after the AI5 finale. I have met some amazing people on the Internet, but I have also seen some of the most vile hatred I have ever experienced. I watched a good man being hounded, harassed, abused, ridiculed and bullied. It was relentless and mind numbing. I cannot imagine having to put up with it, but Clay did with amazing grace and dignity. While the "press" screamed GAY GAY GAY - I never saw it - I just saw Clay and my heart bled for what this gentle man had to endure.

Now we come full circle. I read the People Magazine article and watched the Good Morning America interview. I saw an extremely courageous man make a difficult decision for the sake of his child. I felt for an entire family, people I don't even know, when Clay decided it was time to open up about the most private part of his life. I saw and heard the words "I'm gay" but you know what? I just saw Clay - the same man I fell in love with on American Idol, the same man I've listened to, learned from and enjoyed for over five years. I still don't see straight or gay - I just see Clay.

Today? I still just see Clay

Here's what it is for me with Clay. Everything in his life has shaped him to be the man that he is. It really took me back when I first read posts expressing anger at his mom for not doing something about his stepfather. First, it's not really my place to make judgments on people unless I've experienced their exact circumstances. Not similar, but actually witnessed their life on a day-to-day basis. Even if I would have "done things different", I feel that everything that Clay experienced growing up - the pain, the fear, the humiliation coupled with the love and understanding, has made him a very strong and caring human being.

Had he lived a "softer" life I'm afraid he may not have been able to survive what's been thrown at him the past 8 years. With his life experiences, he's learned how to deal with things. I'm sure they still hurt, he admitted they did, but he has certain mechanisms in place to help him cope because he's been coping all his life. His life experiences have helped him deal with the "business", the labels, the media and to a certain extent the fans.

As for his sexuality, it was never an issue for me (I wrote that long winded blog about I don't see straight or gay, I just see Clay). I don't love Clay despite his sexuality, I love Clay because of his sexuality - it's as much a part of him as his freckles, eye color and those glorious size 13 feet - it's part of what makes Clay Clay. I truly believe if he wasn't gay, he would be a different person - it's part of his personality and his being, and I kind of like him just the way he is. I love that he chose to protect his family - even at his own expense. I love that he chose his own path, was never bullied into saying something before both he and his family were ready.

In this life we are blessed with the ability to make choices. When it comes right down to it

Given the choice between forgiveness and condemnation - I choose to forgive
Given the choice between compassion and cruelty - I choose compassion
Given the choice between understanding and intolerance - I choose to understand
Given the choice between love and hate - I choose to love

I guess you could say that I chose Clay. My world would be darker without him.



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14 comments:

fgs said...

With all the turmoil in the fandom two years ago I remember reading this blog and thinking, "this is exactly how I feel". I never gave much thought to his orientation, he was just "Clay" and it didn't matter one way or another, it wasn't my business. Thank you for bringing this blog back with your thoughts today.

IamMesmerized said...

Sue, I didn't read your blog before so this is my first time reading it. It was a beautiful blog and describes so well how the majority of us felt.

Two years later, nothing has changed. Clay is still our Clay and we don't want him to change one iota.

Thank you for this beautiful blog. You have said it so well.

jbc4clay said...

Thank you so much for your beautiful words. Yes, Clay is still our Clay.
Every road that Clay has taken, smooth and treacherous, has made him the man he is.

Deborah Brand said...

My world would be darker to without Clay too

Carolina Clay said...

SueReu,

The journey about which you have written so eloquently many of us have traveled with Clay Aiken. Thank you for your thoughtful description of the past seven years.

I'm glad I chose Clay. I'm very glad you did, too.

Caro

clayam said...

Thank you so much sue for your beautiful words.
We have been on an eventful journey with Clay Aiken, and as with any journey we have had our ups and downs, but I would not change it for one second. The years have flown by so quickly, but it has been a wonderful ride.

invisibleclay said...

This is so beautiful, Sue. thanks!

Lisa said...

Sue, that was beautifully written. I had never read your original blog, so thank you very much for reposting it. :) I also only see Clay and I see an exceptional singer and human being.

Anna said...

Lovely, wonderful blog. Thanks!

ImGranny said...

That was beautiful and captures exactly the way I feel. Thank you!!!

chel4clay said...

Wow, just wow. You've done an outstanding job of capturing just exactly how a lot of us feel about Clay Aiken and our journey with him. Like others I love Clay for Clay. I picked a winner and am going to continue to "follow the love" (AnnaG).

Anonymous said...

Sue,
greetings from Indonesia. This is the 1st time I read your blog. It's a very wonderful blog you wrote here.
I am 200% agree with you ... I always love Clay because he is Clay.. not more not less.
Thank you for the blog Sue, i'll put yours as one of my Clay favorite website.
With this I also would like to thank you for all the wonderful Clay's montage you made so far... I have kept some of them...those just so beautiful. thanks Sue.

*** Puteri

SueReu said...

Thank you Puteri!!! I really appreciate the kind words.

I kind of like that Clay Aiken guy, just a little bit :)

joanie said...

Sue:

Thanks for your blog. I have to agree with every word you said, except for the fact that when Clay and Ruben were standing up there with Ryan for the decision, I was sure he was going to say Clay Aiken was the winner!

Oh well, we all know he was and is the true winner, and there will never be another like him.