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Ruben Studdard Biography

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Christopher Ruben Studdard, also known as Ruben Studdard, (born September 12, 1978) is an American pop/R&B/gospel singer and character actor who rose to fame as winner of the second season of the American Idol television program, beating out Clay Aiken. He was the first male and first African American to hold this title.

Studdard, the youngest son of two teachers, sang for the first time at the Rising Star Baptist Church in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama at the age of three. He continued singing gospel in church, performing solos as a child while his mother sang in the local choir. While at Huffman High School, he played football and received a scholarship in that sport to Alabama A&M University.

After growing up listening to his mother's Donny Hathaway albums, Fred Hammond, and gospel music, Studdard began to pursue a career in the music industry, majoring in voice studies at Alabama A&M, graduating in 2000. A backup singer from Just A Few Cats, a popular local Birmingham jazz and R&B band with whom Studdard sang, asked him to accompany her to Nashville, Tennessee for an audition on the second season of Fox Broadcasting Company's American Idol.

When auditioning, Studdard sang Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon In The Sky" and he ended up as one of the local finalists. On American Idol, he impressed viewers with his performances of "Superstar" (originally recorded by Bette Midler and later covered by The Carpenters and Luther Vandross) and the Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle duet "A Whole New World"; during his time on the show, Studdard received praise from music legends such as Lionel Richie, Neil Sedaka, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, Luther Vandross, and Gladys Knight.

During the televised competition, Studdard gained the nickname "Velvet Teddy Bear" and was noted for his shirts printed with "205", the telephone area code of his hometown of Birmingham. Studdard also did a cover version of "For All We Know", originally recorded by Donny Hathaway, whose music he grew up with.

He won the contest over runner-up Clay Aiken by just 134,000 votes out of 24,000,000 cast, becoming the second American Idol winner and the first and only male to hold that title until 2006, when fellow Birmingham native Taylor Hicks won season 5. Kimberley Locke came in 3rd. A third Birmingham native, Bo Bice, was runner-up to Carrie Underwood in season 4.

Studdard released his first single album with the hit song "Flying Without Wings" produced by the Underdogs and Face a month later. In December 2003, advance orders for his album Soulful topped the 1 million mark before it was released into stores. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart that month, selling over 400,000 copies in its first week and attaining the highest first-week sales of any American Idol winner. The single "Sorry 2004" from this album reached #9 in the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. Studdard received a Grammy Award nomination in December 2003 for best male R&B vocal performance for "Superstar", nominated with his idol Luther Vandross (Vandross won that category). In March 2004, Ruben won the NAACP Outstanding New Artist award.

Studdard then released the gospel album I Need An Angel on November 23, 2004. The title track was a cover of a 2002 single performed by R&B singer Daniel DeBourg and written by R. Kelly. The album sold over 96,000 copies in its first week, it also entered the Gospel charts at #1, opened at #20 on the Billboard 200 chart, it since has sold over 500,000 copies. It was also #1 on the 2005 Billboard Year-End Gospel Albums Chart. As of July 2005, Studdard is the fourth-best selling American Idol performer with more than 2 million albums sold in the U.S.

In March 2005, Studdard filed a lawsuit against his godfather and business advisor Ronald Edwards. The suit alleges that Edwards ran up $156,000 on Studdard's credit cards and stole $90,000 from his checking account. Edwards has filed a countersuit. On June 15, 2006, Studdard was awarded $500,000 for personal losses and another $1.5 million in punitive damages.

Studdard has sold 2.2 million records, but because of the damage done to his credit by Edwards, it is now hard for Studdard to even buy a home, said Vowell.

He has also appeared on a TV commercial for Serra Kia.

Ruben Studdard's third album, The Return, released October 17, 2006, goes back to his R&B roots, but is different from his previous efforts. Studdard is collaborating with the artist Ne-Yo on this album. The first single is "Change Me" (written by Taryll Jackson), released July 31, 2006. Studdard has indicated that another song on the album will be titled "The Return of the Velvet Teddy Bear." Scott Storch, Ne-Yo, Bryan Michael Cox, and Mario Winans, among others, are the producers on this album. It sold 71,000 copies in its first week to open at #8 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Between his second and third album, Studdard began a diet and fitness program to deal with his weight, out of concern for a family history of diabetes and hypertension. Studdard lost over 70 pounds on a vegetarian diet.
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