American Idol Rewind: Ruben, America’s Velvet Teddy Bear

Tonight, American Idol airs Part 2 of it’s 2 night premiere (check out our first Yak Idol recap here), and we continue to showcase the previous Idol winners in the Yak’s American Idol Rewind feature. If you missed our showcase on Kelly Clarkson yesterday, click HERE to check it out. Today, we’ll tackle the man from the “205,” better known as Birmingham, Alabama. America’s “Velvet Teddy Bear,” a nickname he picked up during the show’s sophomore season, beating out hopeful Clay Aiken, according to Seacrest, by a mere 1,335 votes of the 24,000,000 cast – one of the closest, if not the closest in Idol history. So, let’s dive on in and see what this Teddy Bear has done post-Idol and what he’s up to next!

After shocking America and the judges with his initial audition in Nashville, TN, singing “Ribbon In The Sky,” Ruben was ready to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with. Throughout the competition, he continued to wow viewers and critics alike with his gospel voice and soothing tone. The teddy bear was here to stay and he wasn’t willing to compromise who he was. Many claim that Ruben’s defining moment of the competition was his cover of “Superstar,” originally a hit for The Carpenters and Luther Vandross. “Superstar” helped Ruben nab his first Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, in which he was up against his very own idol, Luther Vandross.┬áRuben’s first single, “Flying Without Wings,” helped fuel pre-sales of his debut album Soulful, topping the 1 million mark before hitting the shelves. He went on to sell over 400,000 records during the first week, attaining him the honor of second highest first week sales of any Idol winner.

Studdard’s second album, I Need An Angel, was a gospel hit. Selling over 500,000 records, the album made #1 on the Billboard Year-End Gospel Chart. Having sold more than 2.4 million albums worldwide, Ruben has had his fair share of success from the show, following the pace set by Kelly Clarkson just a few months earlier. However, Ruben was not without his fair share of hardships either. In 2005, Studdard filed a lawsuit against his godfather and business advisor. The suit alleged that he ran up to $156,000 on Ruben’s credit cards and stole more than $90,000 from his checking account. A year later, Studdard was awarded $500,000 for personal losses and another $1.5 million for punitive damage. During this time, Ruben also began a vegetarian diet out of health concern, causing him to lose over 70 pounds.

Ruben’s third album, The Return, was not so much of a return as it was a flop. Venturing back into the R&B world, Ruben’s record sales declined rapidly, causing him to be dropped from J Records for “falling short of expectations.” Still under contract with 19 Recordings, Ruben was invited back to perform on the Idol stage once again during the season 7 finale, for his rendition of “Celebrate Me Home,” used as the contestants farewell song that year. Studdard also took the time to go on tour in a comedy-drama, Heaven I Need a Hug, as well as for Ain’t Misbehavin,’ which set him along side fellow Season 2 alums Trenyce and Frenchie Davis (disqualified contestant).

More recently, Studdard released his 4th studio album, Love Is, which features a mix of covers and original songs, including “Together.” The album debuted to more critical acclaim than previous albums, but mainly stuck on the R&B/Gospel charts. Ruben also released a 5th album in early 2010, Playlist: The Very Best of Ruben Studdard before returning to the Idol stage for another performance during season 9. Last summer, Studdard took to touring with fellow Idol alum Clay Aiken for a month. The unique aspect of the tour was that it did not focus on their individual recordings, but rather to pay homage to hits from the 60’s to the 90’s with comic variety show acts in between.

Studdard is also not a stranger to the small screen, making appearances on Eve, 8 Simple Rules, and One on One, among others. On a more personal and intimate level, Studdard took his fame and fortune a step further, creating an advocacy group close to his heart, The Ruben Studdard Foundation for the Advancement of Children in the Music Arts. The organization focuses on their aim to “promote the essential role of the arts in education through learning initiatives for the development of students in the Greater Birmingham Area.” Studdard is also an official spokesperson for “Be Sickle Smart,” a health-education program aimed at increasing awareness of iron overload among people living with sickle cell disease. We can’t neglect to mention that Studdard also found the love of his life post-Idol. While signing CDs at a Walmart in Atlanta, the velvet teddy bear gave himself to someone special, Surata Zuri McCants. The two married in a small, private ceremony in Mountain Brook, Alabama in June 2008.

Despite taking a different road post his American Idol victory compared to his predecessor Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard has chosen to make his mark on the industry with a different stamp. Taking on the world of R&B and gospel, Ruben has worked to prove that his Idol win was not in vain. While he may not shine in the mainstream media like Clarkson and some of her Idol successors, Studdard has made his mark on the industry while not straying from his roots, the “205” Velvet Teddy Bear America came to know and love. What are your thoughts on the velvet teddy bear? Did you vote for Ruben to win Idol? Also, don’t forget to check us out again on Wednesday, January 26th for our next installment of Idol Rewind, featuring Season 3’s Fantasia Barrino.

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