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
Singer Tom Jones has launched one of the biggest comebacks in pop music. He's been plugged into the music business like a power chord since 1965. Forty years ago, women would respond to Jones' sexy stage shows by tossing their underwear onstage. Today, his powerful pipes and sex appeal are still going strong.
Jones knows what's at the root of his sex appeal. "You can't be a sexy person unless you have something sexy to offer," he said. "With me, it's my voice. It's the way that I sing, the way I express myself when I sing."
With his son now managing his career, he's toned down the "'70s stud" image. Jones said his son told him to move away from the tight pants and unbuttoned dress shirts.
Jones said his son told him audiences weren't listening to what he was doing because he was becoming a caricature of himself.
In 1989, he collaborated with the young alt-rock band Art of Noise on a cover of the Prince song "Kiss" and landed on the Top 40 again. And he's at it again. At 63, he's got a new CD, peppered with fresh collaborations with — among others — young rap artists like Wyclef Jean. Jones is an artist who committed to keeping up with the times. "I listen to all kinds of music, and there's nothing out there that I don't think that I could do."
Johnny Depp: From Offbeat Indies to Blockbusters
If you look back at the collection of characters Johnny Depp has brought to life on film — from Edward Scissorhands to Gilbert Grape — they're a quirky bunch. In fact, Depp, who became a teen heartthrob in his role as an undercover detective posing as a high school student on the 1987 TV hit 21 Jump Street, sought out the offbeat roles. But the king of the independent film is now riding a wave of popularity in Hollywood's big-budget hits.
Just a few weeks ago, he was on the red carpet at the Academy Awards. He earned a best actor nomination for his role in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.
The critical and popular success of Depp's performance in Pirates of the Caribbean was a bonus for David Koep, who wrote and directed Depp's newest movie, Secret Window, which opens Friday. "Johnny's performance was so memorable that a big audience responded to him. … Obviously a delight for us. We hired an actor and got a huge movie star."