They were up, down, in, out, hot, cold. Rarely do celebrities get a second shot at the spotlight, but Oksana Baiul, Clay Aiken, Johnny Depp and Tom Jones are four very different celebrities who've traveled very different roads to reach the same destination. Their second act.
Your Average American — Idol: Clay Aiken
A year ago, Clay Aiken was virtually unkown when he gave an audition before the judges on last season's American Idol. He may have taken second place to Reuben Studdard on the show, but Aiken has since come out on top on the pop charts.
He sees his success as the American dream fulfilled.
"The American dream I guess is about normal people being successful, and I have been successful. I'm not the coolest person or the smartest person on the block. I just see myself as kind of average."
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Oksana Baiul: Back from the Brink
Oksana Baiul has had anything but an average life. She lives in America now but she's still a hero in her homeland for something she did a decade ago. At 16, Baiul skated to Olympic glory in 1994 with grace beyond her years. The event was among the most watched competitions of the games, spurred by the scandal on the American team. Nancy Kerrigan was hit on the leg by an acquaintance of teammate Tanya Harding, who was then barred from the competition.
Baiul, representing the Ukraine, skated flawlessly and won the gold medal. But off the ice, the gold medalist's life spun out of control. Beneath the celebrity photographs, friends say, was a lost and lonely little girl. She had no family, only her coaches to share her victory. Her father abandoned the family when Baiul was only 2, and her mother died three years before her Olympic victory.
Baiul said, "I was drinking a lot … one drink was too much for me, a hundred weren't enough." Then, on a January night in 1997, Baiul got a wake-up call. She lost control of her Mercedes, and drove off a Connecticut road at a speed police clocked at 100 miles per hour. She was charged with reckless and drunken driving, and required to enter a treatment program.
After she left rehab, she also left skating. But Baiul has turned her life around, and one man has been pivotal in helping her do that: Gene Sunik. Baiul met Sunik, a fellow Ukrainian, in 2000 and calls him "the love of her life." Baiul said Sunik and his family gave her the stability and the strength to do something she'd been afraid to try — mount a comeback. Last fall, she was touring with "Stars on Ice," a show studded with skating luminaries like Katarina Witt and Scott Hamilton. Hamilton said they're thrilled to have her on the tour. "She's kind of resurrected, and it just seemed like a great idea to give her a platform to make a great comeback."
Last September, Baiul took another brave step. She returned to the Ukraine with Sunik and sought out her father. She had last seen him at her mother's funeral, and had pushed him away. "I was angry because he wasn't there for me." She's overcome that anger now, and, although she was nervous, she was happy to reconnect with her dad. "I am so proud to reconnect with him," she said, "… to say that I'm his daughter … sort of like a fairy tale story."
Tom Jones — Still Sexy After All These Years