We had a fun chat today with pop singer and Raleigh native Clay Aiken about his upcoming Christmas concert at the DPAC (more on that coming next week).
Clay is a fun interview. He's always chatty and funny, and he laughs a lot. So naturally, I took advantage of his friendly disposition to ask him about coming in second on "Celebrity Apprentice" earlier this year, and also, what he thinks about some of the recent controversy that show's host, Donald Trump, has created with comments about President Obama and the presidential election.
Here's a bit of our conversation, in Q&A form.
Q: Were you surprised you didn't win "Celebrity Apprentice?"
CLAY: Weren't we all?! I felt I shouldn't be surprised, because I think that's just my lot in life. I think second place is really where I belong. And I will never get in a competition with a black man again, that's for sure! I knew going into 'Apprentice' that it was a very arbitrary show, and that [winning] wasn't necessarily based on one thing or the other. I love Arsenio [Hall] and I couldn't be any more happy for him. I think it's great that he won. He and I are still friends and we stay in touch. I did think I had it, but like I said, I knew it was arbitrary, and let's not lie to ourselves, you know, Mr. Trump's judgment is not always pristine. And we know that it has a lot to do with branding.
I had an interesting time doing it, and I made friends doing it. In some ways, it's good for me. I don't think I would have had as much success in my career had I won 'Idol.' Coming in second kind of gave people something to root for again, to root for me, and had I come in first, that would have sort of been it. Being second kind of gave me some momentum. Coming in second on 'Apprentice' ... I joked with Arsenio, 'If I win, that's great. If I lose then I'll make business cards: America's #1 #2.' And now I have a real purpose in life.
Q: What about 'Celebrity Apprentice: All-Stars'? [Airing in early 2013] Were you asked to be on that?
Clay: They called me, but I think they knew better. ... For me, it was that I came in second, and that's better than 16 other people did. I don't necessarily think it's smart to go back and do something and come in worse than you came the first time. So I would not. You know, Bret Michaels is doing it this season and I personally think it's the stupidest thing you could do. You won! Why would you want to go back and come in fifth place? It doesn't make any sense. Go out on top. To me, I'm of the mindset that I'm never going to win that show. There are variables at play that ... I don't think I would win. So if second place is the best I can do, why would I want to go back and come in fifth?
Q: What do you think about some of the things Donald Trump has been saying lately?
Clay: It's really tough. … I have family members who I don't agree with politically, but I still love them. I mean, I don't love Trump, but I do have a certain degree of respect for him because of what he's been able to do in the business world. I have a certain degree of affection toward him because he was very gracious — and I think I probably told you this the last time we talked —- very gracious and kind and approachable while we were working together. He was never anything but nice. I never saw him be anything but nice to anyone around him. He's got kids who are some of the best-put-together children or young adults I've ever met. They are grounded, they are responsible, they are hard-working, they are smart, and he had a great hand in raising them. So I have a lot of respect for him. And so sometimes when I see him do things, I feel like Barbara Walters, honestly …"
[Here Clay alludes to comments Walters recently made about Trump on "The View."]
Clay: I have a certain degree of affection for him, and it hurts me sometimes when he says certain things because I feel like he's not really showing people who he really is. And that's disappointing to me. Or, on the other hand, he might not have shown me who he really was, and what you see now is who he really is.
The Trump that I know is gracious and approachable and nice and smart, and like I said, it hurts me a little bit. I came back home from taping the show and saw him say some things on TV and thought, 'God, I really just wish you'd be quiet, because I don't want people to think of you like this.' Kind of like that uncle who you care about but you just don't want people to hate, because he doesn't deserve that.
We'll have more from Clay, including information on his upcoming Christmas conert at the DPAC (and the prospects for a new Christmas CD), in next week's News & Observer. And in case you missed it before, here's our Q&A with Clay from this spring, right before the "Celebrity Apprentice" finale.