Charlotte Observer - Jan. 31, 2003
UNCC student is finalist for 'Idol' -- Raleigh singer one of 32 selected from 50,000; S.C. vocalist eliminated
A UNC Charlotte student has made it to the finals of "American Idol."
Clayton Aiken of Raleigh, majoring in special education at UNCC, made the final cut this week with a rendition of Heatwave's "Always and Forever."
He is one of 32 finalists selected from the 50,000 who auditioned for the Fox network talent hunt.
Aiken, 24, has been singing since he was about 18 months old and performed in the N.C. Theatre while in high school. He is a fan of Jon Secada, Shania Twain and Faith Hill.
Another Carolinas contestant fell just short of making the cut this week. Quiana Parler of Charleston, who came in No. 1 in auditions held at Fox's Charlotte affiliate WCCB (Channel 18) in November, was among the last to be cut before the final 32 were announced Wednesday.
Quiana says she has no regrets. Even judge Simon Cowell, master of the acidic put-down, was nice to her, she said. "He wasn't as mean as what we see on television."
She also got to talk to judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson after performing Whitney Houston's rendition of "I Will Always Love You."
"I didn't get any negative criticism from them," said Parler, 23. "When I first met Simon before L.A., he said I had a pretty face and voice, but he wanted me to lose weight before the show started. He was really nice about it.
"But Randy Jackson didn't think I needed to lose weight," she said of the portly music producer.
Parler, who hails from Harleyville, S.C., has been singing for four years in a Charleston-based Latin jazz band called Brazil.