Guest Author - Michelle Anne Cope
About Being a Clay Aiken Fan
Illustration Credit: Michelle Anne Cope
Itís almost like a mathematical story problem. Take seven days divided by four concerts; add in a Harry Potter birthday cake, a taxi, four planes, a plethora of miles in a beautiful new blue Ford Fusion, one stolen piece of luggage multiplied by a befuddled burgundy mini van, and you have the equation of my summer vacation. The answer is Clay Aikenís Symphony Tour in Columbus, Ohio; Cary, North Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee.
Hi, my name is Michelle and Iím a Clay Aiken fan. Since day one Ė American Idol, Season 2, The Auditions Ė Iíve been there. However, this year, things are different with my fandom. Not a bad thing, I just think I changed a little. I think Clay changed, too.
In The Beginning
I used to tell people that Clay Aiken changed my life. I would chatter on excitedly that because of him I was a better person, my creativity was flourishing and the issues and trials of my personal life were suddenly easier to solve. I didnít mean to be a fanatic or overly obsessed; itís just so many neat and amazing things happened to me as a result of being a Clay Aiken fan. I wanted to share the . . . well for lack of a better word Ė ďClackĒ. I learned quickly that some people thought we (Clay fans) were, um, crazy.
Clay didnít draw the big attention weíd hoped as fans. We wanted him played on radio stations near, far and very often. It didnít happen. But, we stayed; the fans that had quickly banded together in the beginning as Claynation and called themselves Claymates, stood behind this young man who had an incredible talent and charisma. There were others, we knew, that didnít proclaim their fandom as loudly, yet we all shared a common theme. We were overwhelmed with Clayís voice, style and southern charm, and in turn, we sort of overwhelmed him. I truly believe our enthusiasm scared him a bit. Who could blame him? A self-proclaimed geek with ears that stuck out and big feet who never had such female attention, let alone, oh mah goodness, someone calling him sexy.
We had boards with thousands of threads with his pictures, concert footage, fictional love stories and sightings of his every move. It was almost as if we cyber-stalked him. He was good to us; he had patience for the most part, drawing the line severely with his privacy when it came to his familyís home. At times, nothing was really taboo. We discussed his clothes, his hair, his friends and his personal life. Heís never told us his favorite color, although itís been debated for hours on some boards. We knew his backup singers by name, his body guard and even cooed at his dog if one of his staff members brought her out for a walk after a concert. Like I said, he was good to us and even boasted on several occasions that he had the best of fans. Yet, I believe at times, we could also be the worst of fans. We would strike out at any naysayer and fight for his reputation until at times it could get ugly and we started to fight each other. And if for some reason, Clay might have a bad day or not feel well, it seemed to be broadcast more than any of his songs ever were.
During the darkest times in our community, we wanted to be heard and we wanted to hear from him, but we waited. He knew and he thanked us. He needed a little space, and maybe we did, too. The community was changing.
Community Ė Not a Cult
Please notice that I refer to this group of fans as a community. Thatís what we are; we are not a cult. Clay Aiken is not a god or savior. Heís a man with an incredible talent that he shares. We know this, but we also know how heís changed many of our lives.
The boards I talked about earlier were initially started to discuss Clay, his music, television appearances and concerts. Yet, they became more. We opened threads for other discussions and started entire sections for off topic subjects. Our bond through Clay and the fact that we were posting on boards and not having face-to-face conversations, made us open up about more than just him. We shared our marriages, our divorces, births, deaths, illness and difficulties. We cyber cheered each other for successes and we could always find someone up and ready to talk day or night when we had failures. We became friends. We shared email addresses, instant message names, snail mail addresses and phone numbers. We made plans to meet at concerts. Our friendships grew and we saw each other outside of the Clay Aiken world. It was a large group of individuals that had good and bad times as well as light and dark days. Often, it was like therapy sessions for free. There were disorders and disabilities. Some of us were scared to try new things; some of us couldnít afford it. We encouraged each other, we paid for each other. We became strong as a group and stronger as individuals. I knew it would be impossible to try to explain this, and maybe I can never get everyone to understand, but we do, and now, we know Clay does, too.
A lot has changed since the first time we gathered on boards and at concert venues. Clay Aiken is now a singer, songwriter, author, playwright, business entrepreneur and entertainer. He is a few years older, a little cooler and a lot more collected when it comes to us Ė his fans. He understands us, and we understand him a little more. His personal life is strictly personal, but heíll give us everything and anything he can during his shows. This means coming to a bus line after almost every concert to sometimes more than a thousand fans to touch each of our hands and say thank you. At the OFC, (Official Fan Club), he teases us, lovingly admonishes us and encourages us to use our talents to enrich our lives as well as others.
In September 2006, Clay released an album of what many might consider ďjust cover songsĒ. No. They are more. When he sang some of them this year as he traveled to play with various symphonies, he sang them to us, his fans. It was his love letter to us. We understood. His final song of every performance was a special and heartfelt thank you. Before each time he sang it, he told the audience about his fans, how we followed him, how we grouped together as friends, how we could be a little crazy, but most important, he told them how we stand together to give him strength and support. He gets us. We are a community, we are his community.
I still visit the boards, just not as often. See, Iíve changed. Because of Clay and his community, Iíve made lifelong friends that have helped me to deal with some big issues. I also started using my voice again; Iím using it to write. Tonight, I write my own thank you to Clay Aiken and his community.
Have a great week!