Born on September 12, 1978, Ruben Studdard is an R&B, pop and gospel singer. As a child, he sang gospel in his local church. Studdard majored in music at Alabama A&M University, graduating in 2000. Two years later, he auditioned on a whim for American Idol, FOX's hit television talent search show. He not only earned a spot, but won first place in 2003. He earned his first Grammy Award nomination that same year. After releasing his debut album, Soulful (2003), Studdard put out several more records, including I Need an Angel (2004), Love Is (2009) and Letters from Birmingham (2012). In 2013, Studdard competed on the popular weight-loss competition The Biggest Loser.
Born Christopher Theodore Ruben Studdard on September 12, 1978, in Frankfurt, Germany, singer Ruben Studdard rose to fame as a contestant on American Idol. He was raised in Birmingham, Alabama. Around the age of 3, Studdard began singing in his local church choir.
At Alabama A&M University, Studdard put aside a possible career in football to major in music. After graduating from A&M in 2000, he auditioned on a whim for American Idol, FOX's hit television talent search show, in 2002.
Studdard not only earned a spot on American Idol, but eventually won first place in May 2003, thanks to more than 24 million viewers who cast their votes. Dubbed "The Velvet Teddy Bear" by guest judge Gladys Knight, he crooned to triumph over his rival, fellow Southerner Clay Aiken. Shortly after the win, Studdard released his debut single, a cover of Westlife's "Flying Without Wings." After completing a 39-city tour with his fellow competitors, he returned to record his first album, Soulful. Advance orders for the album topped the 1 million mark before it was even released in December 2003.
For his second project, I Need an Angel (2004), Ruben Studdard decided to make a contemporary gospel recording, putting his own spin on such classics as "Shout to the Lord" and Amazing Grace." In the fall of 2006, the singer contributed to several tracks on his latest effort, The Return (2006). The album initially made a strong showing on the album charts, with the singles "Change Me" and "Make Ya Feel Beautiful" making the R&B and hip-hop charts. But Studdard's sales weren't strong enough for his record company, which dropped him in 2007.
Studdard was inspired by his 2008 marriage to Surata Zuri McCants for his next record, Love Is (2009). The couple split up in 2011, but Studdard quickly found new musical inspiration, releasing Letters from Birmingham—his fifth studio project—the following year.
In 2013, Studdard agreed to join the cast of The Biggest Loser. Having struggled with his weight since competing on Idol 10 years earlier, he jumped at the chance to battle his obesity, rearranging his concert schedule in order to accomodate his time on the series. While on the show, Studdard learned that he had type 2 diabetes. During a guest appearance on the Today show, Studdard expressed feeling very fortunate for his Biggest Loser spot: "I most definitely want to be around for a long time," he said, adding that, for him, the show was "a second chance."
Unfortunately, Studdard ended up being eliminated from the competition in early November. He discussed his exit from the show in , writing: "I gave all I had ... but it just wasn't enough to keep me on the ranch. I'm glad that I had the courage to come to the ranch and show the world that you're never too far away to turn and go right. I may not be the 'Biggest Loser,' but I am a champion!"
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