Clay Aiken tells Ruben Studdard how he came out to himself while filming their season of 'Idol' 20 years ago.
Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken are taking a sweet stroll down memory lane. Amid their nostalgic joint tour across the U.S. and Canada, the American Idol alums stopped by for a round of ET's "Spilling the E-Tea," reminiscing about their time on the show's second season ahead of the 20th anniversary of their appearance.
The duo announced their current Twenty tour in December, with the journey taking them through stops in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta and more. The long-time friends will end their tour on May 16, right before their appearance on the American Idol season finale on May 21; marking the 20th anniversary since they stunned the country with their dynamic voices.
Studdard tells Aiken that his excitement for the tour "can't be put into words," sharing that he's excited about the opportunity to get back on the road with his former reality TV competitior. "You're my brother. I wouldn't want to be on tour with anybody else. Other than probably Janet Jackson," he adds.
Aiken reveals that his tourmate has been teaching him to dance, although how well the lessons are going is up to interpretation. "Maybe by the end of the tour, you will have taught me how to dance," he tells Studdard. "I'll have the moves but will I be counting. And on the right beat. That's the challenge."
"Ima get you there, I promise," the American Idol winner responds. "I think that if we have one more rehearsal, one more, I think you'll have it. The point of it is is just to be free because it's just dancing!"
Studdard goes on to deftly wade through the minefield of declaring his tourmate the bigger diva, conceding that while Aiken can be a "Divo" when it comes to certain aspects of production, when it comes down to rider requests for the dressing room, Studdard takes the title.
"We are Divos in different ways," Studdard diplomatically concludes.
As the two dive deeply into their time on American Idol together, they reflect on their first impressions of one another. Aiken admits to being "a little intimidated" by Studdard, saying, "When we had gotten through the auditions and we were in our Hollywood Week in Glendale... you just always had this very confident air about you. You still do."
"I think everyone sort of looked at you as one of the folks who we needed to be friends with, we needed to get close with because we all realized you were going to last to the end -- even in Hollywood Week," Aikens recalls. "I think everyone knew that, yeah, 'cause I talk to other people who were in the show with us at that time. We all saw... when you sang 'Superstar.'"
Studdard shares that his first impression of Aiken was a little skewed, admitting that he saw the other singer as a "Mack" because of the young women that surrounded him that Aiken says were called "fruit flies."
"I met Clay at the Glendale Hilton and he [was] in the company of several very attractive young ladies and by several, I mean like 10 or 12," Studdard recalls. "And so I said, 'Oh man, he's the only guy, he must be 'Mackadocious.' I learned very quickly that, you know, that's not quite what it is, but still."
"Glad you came over and said hey," Aiken sweetly responds.
The former politician goes on to share that a secret he never revealed from his time on Idol was that he came out "to myself" during the show. "I had never really realized that I was gay until I met someone who worked on the show and who, you know, [kind of told me] in one way or another," he says, laughing.
The pair break down their favorite moments with the original judging panel, reflecting on Simon Cowell's harsh, yet honest feedback and Paula Abdul's gentler approach. "I think Paula and Simon were sort of Mom and Dad [of the panel]," Aiken notes, adding that Cowell gave contestants "the tough love," Abdul was "making sure you feel good," and Randy Jackson was the kind "uncle" figure.
And when it comes to the current judging panel, Aiken and Studdard throw out their pitch for their inclusion in a future season of the show. Aiken admits that if he stepped into the role, he would "maybe [be] more Simon-ish than they have right now," but as someone who benefited from Cowell's blunt honesty, he sees the appeal of the approach.
"I've benefited from when people have told me the truth more than anything else," he adds. "I got to be a mentor this year, as you've done in the past. And I really almost prefer that simply because I like [that] you can still be incredibly honest to someone but you don't have to be judgmental. I mean, the whole idea of being a judge is, 'I'm going to tell you whether you're good or not, and people should vote this way.' But I liked the idea of being able to be constructive, give people advice, sometimes tough advice, but always with the purpose of trying to help them be better."
Studdard adds that he finds it surprising that the series "doesn't make you and I permanent Idol mentors."
He adds, "I would think it would do them well, to bring us on the show as permanent Idol mentors, but hey, you know, what do we know? We were just there in the beginning. We've just seen every variation of American Idol there is."
Your move, American Idol.