Clay Aiken’s 5 ways reality TV changed his life

Kevin Cook

"I've joked that I will never be in a competition with a black man again," says Clay Aiken with a good-natured laugh on the phone from New York City. Indeed, the singer is now a two-time runner-up, having been bested by Ruben Studdard on the second season of "American Idol" and Arsenio Hall on the recent season of "Celebrity Apprentice." Aiken is currently making merry on a holiday concert tour that hits the Wilbur Theatre Sunday. We recently chatted with the North Carolina native about five of the many ways reality TV changed his life.

1. "I cannot go anywhere without someone telling me I should've won. Now I'm completely confused as to which time I lost that they're talking about," he says with a laugh. "It used to be so easy."


2. "I've made some really incredible friends; both Ruben and Arsenio are two people who I've stayed in touch with regularly," he says of his competitors.

3. "I had my degree in special ed. and I was teaching kids with autism and that was going to be my plan. And so this is a substantial difference. I'm now on my 13th tour."

4. "I wouldn't have had the opportunity to speak out on a lot of causes that are important to me," says Aiken, a longtime UNICEF ambassador who also heads his own foundation aiding children with disabilities. "Nobody cared what I said before. Heck, they might not care now but they have to listen a little more."

5. “Reality TV was a crash course in dealing with jackasses,” he says of the various personalities on the two shows as well as the criticism that followed. “I don’t know anybody on earth who has a thicker skin than me.” Sarah Rodman

Clay Aiken performs at the Wilbur Theatre, Sunday at
7 p.m. Tickets are $39-$50. 800-745-3000, www.ticket